Environmentally-induced changes to brain morphology predict cognitive performance

Pike, Thomas, Wilkinson, Anna and Ramsey, Michael (2018) Environmentally-induced changes to brain morphology predict cognitive performance. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373 (1756). ISSN 0962-8436

Environmentally-induced changes to brain morphology predict cognitive performance [Article]
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The relationship between the size and structure of a species’ brain and its cognitive capacity has long interested scientists. Generally this work relates interspecific variation in brain anatomy with performance on a variety of cognitive tasks. However, brains are known to show considerable short-term plasticity in response to a range of social, ecological and environmental factors. Despite this, we have a remarkably poor understanding of how this impacts on an animal’s cognitive performance. Here, we non-invasively manipulated the relative size of brain regions associated with processing visual and chemical information in fish (the optic tectum and olfactory bulbs, respectively). We then tested performance in a cognitive task in which information from the two sensory modalities was in conflict. Although the fish could effectively utilise both visual and chemical information if presented in isolation, when they received cues from both modalities simultaneously, those with relatively better developed optic tecta showed a greater reliance on visual information, while individuals with relatively better developed olfactory bulbs showed a greater reliance on chemical information. These results suggest that short-term changes in brain structure, possibly resulting from an attempt to minimise the costs of developing unnecessary but energetically expensive brain regions, may have marked effects on cognitive performance.

Keywords:animal cognition, behavioural plasticity, nine-spined stickleback, Pungitius pungitius, numerosity
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:32496
Deposited On:25 Jun 2018 13:22

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