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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Craig Kinsley


The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of prospective memory, which is defined as the anticipation of future events, by rat-mothers. Prospective memory has been studied at great lengths in humans, but evidence in animals is scarce. There is currently much disagreement among animal cognition researchers regarding the ability of non-human animals to mentally project themselves into the future and act upon anticipation of future needs. Prospective memory has not yet been explored in rat- mothers. Considering the number of cognitive abilities found to be sharpened with a rat- mother’s reproductive experience, we hypothesize that prospective memory may be a skill enhanced through motherhood. A series of three behavioral experiments enabled us to gain insight into the goal-directed future-planning behavior of parous rats, by requiring

rats to acquire resources lacking in the future environment. The first of these experiments, utilizing the open field maze with a water-acquisition task, revealed significant evidence for prospective memory exclusively in lactating parous rats. Experiment 2 utilized a similar procedure to experiment 1, but allowed us to account for the metabolic rate differences between lactating mothers and non-mothers. Finally, the third experiment provided additional evidence that rat-mothers use prospective memory, by training rats to gather food from an environment only temporarily available, and move it to their home environment to create a cache for later consumption, when food is scarce. The results of each behavioral experiment suggest that that 1) a non-human species can plan ahead by remembering relevant information, and 2) the prospective memory of rat-mothers is superior to that of non-mothers.