Miletto Petrazzini, M. E., Pecunioso, A., Dadda, M., & Agrillo, C. (2019). The impact of brain lateralization and anxiety-like behaviour in an extensive operant conditioning task in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Symmetry, 11(11), 1395.
Several studies in mammals, birds, and fish have documented better cognitive abilities associated with an asymmetrical distribution of cognitive functions in the two halves of the brain, also known as ‘functional brain lateralization’. However, the role of brain lateralization in learning abilities is still unclear. In addition, although recent studies suggest a link between some personality traits and accuracy in cognitive tasks, the relation between anxiety and learning skills in Skinner boxes needs to be clarified. In the present study, we tested the impact of brain lateralization and anxiety-like behaviour in the performance of an extensive operant conditioning task. Zebrafish tested in a Skinner box underwent 500 trials in a colour discrimination task (red vs. yellow and green vs. blue). To assess the degree of lateralization, fish were observed in a detour test in the presence of a dummy predator, and anxiety-like behaviour was studied by observing scototaxis response in an experimental tank divided into light and dark compartments. Although the low performance in the colour discrimination task did not permit the drawing of firm conclusions, no correlation was found between the accuracy in the colour discrimination task and the behaviour in the detour and scototaxis tests. This suggests that neither different degrees of asymmetries in brain lateralization nor anxiety may significantly impact the learning skills of zebrafish.
operant conditioning; lateralization; symmetry; scototaxis; comparative perception; fish