Improving Training for Canine fMRI

Principal Investigators: : Lily R. Strassberg, B.S. & Jeffery S. Katz, Ph.D.
Institution: Auburn University


Awake, unrestrained canine functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is of great interest in working dog sectors for its potential to elucidate mechanisms of scent processing and odor detection, as well as biobehavioral markers of successful career performance. The method is also of interest to anthropologists, evolutionary psychologists, and the general public. Training scanner dogs involves many steps, including acclimation to the claustrophobic and noisy scanning environment and conditioning of the long-duration (3-6 minute) stationing position. Training the stationing behavior is laborious and costly, and the behavior’s quality directly influences the quality of the data collected. An ideal training protocol would produce a dog that is acclimated for high-fidelity data collection at first exposure to the MR environment. The proposed study will measure the impact of separation of desensitization from operant conditioning (shaping), and training with generalization across dissimilar locations on MR transfer performance. We are requesting $1500 to pilot the training and testing of four Auburn University (AU) Canine Performance Science detection canines with controlled genetic and training histories. The dogs will experience separate desensitization (desensitization to noise separate from shaping of stationing), and generalization (five distinct location transfers of final stationing behavior). All shaping, desensitization, and transfer sessions will be video recorded and analyzed. Quantification of motion artifacts during anatomical and resting state scans will serve as the dependent measure of behavior quality, and will be compared against that of previously trained scanner dogs who have undergone concurrent desensitization (desensitization to noise during shaping of stationing) and no generalization.