Notebook

David Holtzman and Friend SNAKE LOGIC David Holtzman, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester, has loved snakes since childhood. But in college, when he wanted to investigate how snake brains develop, he found that serpents weren't exactly model organisms. "I wanted to devise a task that could show that snakes can learn as well as rodents--if you ask them to do the right thing," he recalls. Now Holtzman and his colleagues are doing just that (D.

The Scientist Staff
Mar 1, 1999

David Holtzman and Friend
SNAKE LOGIC David Holtzman, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester, has loved snakes since childhood. But in college, when he wanted to investigate how snake brains develop, he found that serpents weren't exactly model organisms. "I wanted to devise a task that could show that snakes can learn as well as rodents--if you ask them to do the right thing," he recalls. Now Holtzman and his colleagues are doing just that (D.A. Holtzman et al., "Spatial learning of an escape task by young corn snakes, Elpahe guttata guttata," Animal Behaviour, 57:51-60, November 1998.) Rather than stuffing a four-foot corn snake into a not-much-longer maze, they use an "arena," which is a black, bathtub-like contraption with eight holes and strategically placed markings from which the animals can navigate. And the snakes do so quite well. At...

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