Meeting Abstract

66.6  Saturday, Jan. 5  Decline in conditions during the juvenile period impair behavioral flexibility, while consistently poor developmental conditions impair spatial memory of zebra finches KRIENGWATANA, B*; AITKEN, SDT; GARCIA, L; FARRELL, TM; MACDOUGALL-SHACKLETON, SA; University of Western Ontario; University of Western Ontario; University of Western Ontario; Unviersity of Western Ontario; University of Western Ontario bkrieng@uwo.ca

Developmental environments can have long-term effects on learning and cognition. Multiple aspects of cognition may be affected by poor conditions during development if underlying systems are maturing simultaneously. The present study investigates the effect of nutritional stress at different stages of development on behavioral flexibility, spatial memory, and neophobia. Zebra finches were raised in consistently high (HH) or low (LL) food conditions until 65 days post-hatch (DPH), or were switched from high to low conditions (HL) or vice versa (LH) at 35 DPH. Subjects were then tested as adults. An attentional set-shifting task that required subjects to inhibit responding to a previously rewarding cue and shift attention to a previously non-rewarding cue was used to quantify behavioral flexibility. A hippocampus-dependent spatial memory task (Bailey et al. 2009) was used to quantify spatial memory, and willingness to approach a novel object was used to quantify neophobia. Results indicate that HL conditions impaired subjects’ ability to shift attention and inhibit previously correct responses, while LL conditions impaired subjects’ performance on the spatial memory task. Although there was no main effect of treatment conditions on neophobia, birds that were more neophobic tended to be more flexible, especially females. These findings provide insight into the differences in windows of vulnerability for development of attentional and hippocampal-dependent processes, as well as the possibility that a decline in environmental quality during the juvenile period may permanently affect dopaminergic systems responsible for attention and inhibitory control.