Miletto Petrazzini, M.E., Pecunioso, A., Dadda, M., & Agrillo, C. (2020). Does brain lateralization affect the performance in binary choice tasks? A study in the animal model Danio rerio. Symmetry, 12, 1294.
Researchers in behavioral neuroscience commonly observe the behavior of animal subjects in the presence of two alternative stimuli. However, this type of binary choice introduces a potential confound related to side biases. Understanding whether subjects exhibit this bias, and the origin of it (pre-existent or acquired throughout the experimental sessions), is particularly important to interpreting the results. Here, we tested the hypothesis according to which brain lateralization may influence the emergence of side biases in a well-known model of neuroscience, the zebrafish. As a measure of lateralization, individuals were observed in their spontaneous tendencies to monitor a potential predator with either the left or the right eye. Subjects also underwent an operant conditioning task requiring discrimination between two colors placed on the left–right axis. Although the low performance exhibited in the operant conditioning task prevents firm conclusions from being drawn, a positive correlation was found between the direction of lateralization and the tendency to select the stimulus presented on one specific side (e.g., right). The choice for this preferred side did not change throughout the experimental sessions, meaning that this side bias was not the result of the prolonged training. Overall, our study calls for a wider investigation of pre-existing lateralization biases in animal models to set up methodological counter strategies to test individuals that do not properly work in a binary choice task with stimuli arranged on the left–right axis.
lateralization; side bias; fish; methodological artefacts; symmetry