Training Dogs for Awake, Unrestrained Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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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. Awake canine fMRI is a new procedure that lacks well-established training methods. The potential of a new training method was investigated on the quality of awake, unrestrained canine fMRI data. The aim was to design a procedure that produces high-quality functional and structural data at first exposure to the MRI environment in a cost-effective manner. The method segments operant conditioning of the in-bore stationing behavior, a 5-minute prone down stay aligned in a chin rest, from appetitive classical conditioning of a positive response to the assorted 90+ decibel scan sequences. Using minimal and easily accessible training aids and trained to completion in a location away from the MRI suite, the new method utilized a transfer phase of mock MRI sessions conducted in five different locations before the final transfer test in the MRI environment. Maximum duration performance was stable and over five minutes at the end of training and across transfer sessions. Two dogs were able to station to the 5-minute criterion in all transfer locations, and two dogs were able to station to the above criterion in 4/5 transfer locations (T2-T5). Three of the dogs transferred to the MRI scanner and demonstrated repeated bouts of the max possible duration (206 s). Motion, a proxy of data quality, during echoplanar imaging (EPI) scans, was compared between dogs trained with the new method (n=4) and four ideally-performing dogs scanned in previous fMRI experiments at Auburn University. Although one dog failed MRI transfer, dogs trained with the new method were able to produce comparably high-quality data to the previously tested dogs.