Basic Behavioral Processes Lab (Sanabria)

Our lab investigates dissociable elements of basic behavior, such as timing behavior, Pavlovian conditioning, and instrumental condition,  using animals models.  Our current projects are centered around olfaction in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, influences on animal time perception, and the effect of chronic stress on timing. 

How do we perceive significant events in our environment? How do we remember them? How do we respond to them? How do they modulate motivation for certain activities? How do we learn to avert those activities when they are harmful in the long run?  Our research lab studies fundamental behavioral processes in animal models including learning, choosing, waiting, remembering, and timing. We use pigeons, rats, and humans to answer these questions and develop quantitative models of their behavior. Some projects available in the lab are:

  • Timing ("time perception"): analysis of error patterns in the discrimination, production, and reproduction of time intervals.
  • Memory: evaluation of the role of intervening events on recall of past stimuli and behavior, using variations of the delayed-matching-to-sample paradigm.
  • Associative learning: assessment of dynamic aspects of Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning.
  • Self-control, Inhibition, and Waiting: includes the study of temporal discounting (how rewards lose effectiveness as a function of delay) and behavioral inhibition using the smaller-sooner vs. larger-later paradigm, differential reinforcement of low rates (a waiting task), and animal versions of the Stop and Stroop tasks.

Junior research assistants (< 1 semester in lab) are expected to handle animals, conduct experiments (typically using automated equipment), collect data, conduct preliminary analyses, and attend weekly lab meetings. In addition to these responsibilities, senior research assistants (> 1 semester in lab) are encouraged, but not required, to run their own projects. All students will have the opportunity to learn theory, equipment programming, and data analysis techniques at a level commensurate to their interests. Senior research assistants are encouraged to serve as co-authors in scientific publications.

Opportunity Info
Course Info
Course Credit: 
Either PSY399 or PSY499

Satisfactory completion of PSY 290 (Research Methods) and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Interest in animal behavior. Reliability. Conscientiousness. Minimal time commitment of 9 hrs/week. Have a year (at minimum) before graduating. Applicants that have satisfactorily completed PSY 320 (Learning & Motivation) and SOLUR program students are given priority.

Lab Director(s): 
Federico Sanabria, PhD