Comparative study of environmental factors influencing motor task learning and memory retention in sighted and blind crayfish



Robin L. Cooper, 675 Rose Street, Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506. Tel: 859-275-5950; Fax: 859-257-1717; E-mail:


In classical conditioning, an alteration in response occurs when two stimuli are regularly paired in close succession. An area of particular research interest is classical conditioning with a chemical signal and visual and/or tactile stimuli as the unconditional stimuli, to test manipulative and motor behaviors in a learning paradigm. A classical learning task chamber was developed to examine learning trends in a sighted surface-dwelling crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, and in a blind cave-dwelling crayfish, Orconectes australis packardi. We examined whether learning is influenced by environmental factors and/or reliance on different primary sensory modalities. Crayfish were trained to manipulate a large, cumbersome cheliped through a small access point to obtain a food reward. In both species, acquisition of the learning task was rapid when they were in nonstressed conditions. The blind crayfish tested in low white light did not successfully complete the task, suggesting a stress response.