Ontogenesis of within-session locomotor habituation in the open field.
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Habituation signifies a decreased response to a constant or repeated stimulus or environment. Although habituation is a fundamental form of nonassociative learning, little is known about its ontogenesis. Here, locomotor activity of postnatal ferrets within individual open field sessions was quantitatively analysed. The patterns of activity revealed a gradual shift across developmental time between relative increment and decrement of activity within sessions. The increment-to-decrement turning point was around postnatal day 48. These novel findings indicate that systematic changes in the interplay between mechanisms that drive exploratory behaviour and those that inhibit it shape the ontogenesis of open field habituation. The remarkable robustness of the data underscores the suitability of the ferret as an experimental animal for investigating ontogenesis of habituation.