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Snippets from My Life Story

Cliff Morgan advised the first-year students at Hopkins on their choice of a research project to work on. He suggested three possible topics for me:

  1. Release phenomena: how come after brain damage (loss of tissue) you might get more of a certain kind of behavior?
  2. Delayed appearance of behavior: how come it might take weeks for an abnormal behavior to appear after damage?
  3. I can’t recall the third one.

I chose release phenomena because the effects were instant and huge.

Because I had done some work with rats as an undergraduate, for my graduate assistantship I was given the job of taking care of the rat colony.  Cleaning the colony required a whole day, once a week. I would do it on the weekends, when I had no classes.  About half way through, I would go down to the basement where there was a candy machine and get myself a couple of Hershey’s candy bars.  I would break one into small pieces and go around offering a piece to each cage which was immediately gobbled up.  Within a couple of weeks, at lunch time all the rats were standing in front of their cage waiting for their chocolate.

Later when I worked on lateral hypothalamic–damaged rats, they would starve to death unless I tube-fed them three time a day.  The last time each day, being 2:00 a.m., I grew desperate but remembered that rats loved chocolate. Imagine the thrill, when I offered bits of chocolate to a starving rat and he gobbled them up.  Up to that time food intake had been thought of merely in terms of calories, and was studied by physiologists.  My finding that taste could make a life or death difference in food intake opened the field for other psychologists, and they came pouring in.

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