Light experience and development of behavioural lateralisation in chicks II. Choice of familiar versus unfamiliar model social partner

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Andrew, RJ
Johnston, ANB
Robins, A
Rogers, LJ
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J P Huston & T E Robinson
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In late-stage embryos of domestic fowl, exposure of the right eye to light entering through the shell induces asymmetry of the thalamofugal visual pathway, together with differences in performance according to whether the right or left eye (RE, LE) is in use (Behav. Brain Res. 38 (1990) 211). Nevertheless, at least some of the main specialisations of the right and left eye systems (RES, LES) are not dependent on such exposure. Higher ability of LES to assess and respond to novelty is present in dark-incubated (Da) chicks. This is probably also true of RES ability to control response, and specifically to inhibit shift to an alternative response (i.e. to a novel stimulus). We imprinted chicks on red table-tennis balls with a horizontal, white strip on their equator. At test, they chose between this and a ball with a vertical, white strip. Da chicks showed clear choice with the LE, but not with the RE. Unexpectedly, light-incubated (Li) chicks failed to show LE/RE differences in choice. Exploratory pecks at a novel feature were greatly reduced in Li. Two effects of light exposure on RES are likely. The first is greater use of RES in the home-cage, affecting what is learned about the companion ball. This may make RES more competent in assessing ball properties, and so explain the enhanced choice by RE, that abolished the RE/LE difference in Li. Secondly, the ability of RES to inhibit shift to an alternative response is enhanced. Light exposure and being female similarly opposed shift to the novel feature, but probably via different mechanisms. The effects of exposure are discussed as an example of the generation of a range of behavioural phenotypes, which are sustained within a single population by varying or frequency-dependent selection.

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Behavioural Brain Research
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© 2004 Elsevier : Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher : This journal is available online - use hypertext links.
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Biomedical and clinical sciences
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