Simultaneous temporal processing.
Seven experiments assessed the ability of rats to process temporal information from two internal clocks simultaneously and independently. In the first six experiments a light stimulus signalled an overall interval between the beginning of a trial and the availability of food reinforcement (e.g., a 50-s fixed interval). During the overall interval a sound stimulus was used to signal shorter intervals that divided the overall interval into equal segments. When there was a fixed temporal relation between the final segment signal and the availability of reinforcement, there was a double-scallop pattern of responding throughout the segmented overall interval; the function relating response rate to time during segment intervals was similar to the function relating response rate to time in unsegmented overall intervals; a change in response rate occurred at the time that a normally presented segment signal was omitted. Taken together, the results indicate that rats timed the overall interval and the segment intervals simultaneously and independently without interference. In Experiment 7 a light stimulus was used on some trials, and a sound stimulus was used on other trials to signal a discrete-trial 50-s peak procedure. When these two signals were presented in compound, there was a leftward shift of the response function, which suggests that rats timed both signals simultaneously. For all of the experiments a scalar timing model with specific stimulus integration rules is used to explain the results. The stimulus integration rule used in the first six experiments, in which there were two signals for the same reinforcement, was to respond if both the segment and the overall interval had exceeded a response threshold. The stimulus integration rule used in Experiment 7, in which there were two signals for different reinforcements, was to respond if the response threshold for either interval had been exceeded.
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