Last Updated on October 16, 2023

In this post, we describe four common tasks you can use with your operant training chambers, and what exactly they measure. All of these tasks are easy to program with our Touch Panel operant chambers and TaskStudio software.

Learn more about our chambers and their unique specifications here.

Two-Choice Visual Discrimination Task:

This task involves learning that one of the two shapes displayed on the screen is correct. Touching the correct stimuli is rewarded and touching the incorrect stimuli is punished with a timeout where the mouse or rat cannot start another trial. Once the mouse or rat learns the correct stimuli, they are reversed so that the previously rewarded stimuli now results in punishment. This type of reversal learning requires the mouse or rat to inhibit automatic responses that require the prefrontal cortex. This task is a great measure of cognitive flexibility and is a great tool for examining animal models of many neuropsychiatric disorders.

Example of the two-choice visual discrimination task.

Paired Associate Learning (PAL)

In this task, mice or rats learn and remember which of three objects goes in which of three spatial locations. On each trial, two different objects are presented; one is in the correct location; the other in the incorrect location. The rat or mouse must choose which stimulus is in the correct location. This task relies on the hippocampus and can be used to test hippocampal dysfunction as seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Visuomotor Conditional Learning (VMCL)

This task is a stimulus-response task. The rat or mouse must learn that two stimuli go with two different locations. When stimulus A is presented the rat or mouse must always respond to location A. If stimulus B is presented, the rat or mouse must always respond to location B. This type of test is useful for examining motor dysfunction in rat and mouse models of Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

5-Choice Serial Reaction Time (5CSRT)

This task requires the rodent to respond to a brief visual stimuli presented randomly in one of 5 locations. It is used to measure attention span and impulsivity control in mice and rats and is useful for animal models of ADHD.


Bari, A., Dalley, J. W., & Robbins, T. W. (2008). The application of the 5-choice serial reaction time task for the assessment of visual attentional processes and impulse control in rats. Nature Protocols3(5), 759–767. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.41

Crawley, J. N. (2007). Whats wrong with my mouse?: behavioral phenotyping of transgenic and knockout mice. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience.