Effects of prenatal and early postnatal exposure to aversive stimuli on fearfulness and exploratory behavior in bobwhite quail neonates (Colinus virginianus)
Neophobia, the fear of novelty, is a behavioral trait found across a number of animal species, including humans. Neophobic individuals perceive novel environments and stimuli to have aversive properties, and exhibit fearful behaviors when presented with non-familiar situations. The present study examined how early life exposure to aversive novel stimuli could reduce neophobia in bobwhite quail chicks. Experiment 1 exposed chicks to a novel auditory tone previously shown to be aversive to naïve chicks (Suarez, 2012) for 24 hours immediately after hatching, then subsequently tested them in the presence of the tone within a novel maze task. Postnatally exposed chicks demonstrated decreased fearfulness compared to naïve chicks, and behaved more similarly to chicks tested in the presence of a known attractive auditory stimulus (a bobwhite maternal assembly call vocalization). Experiment 2 exposed chicks to the novel auditory tone for 24 hours prenatally, then subsequently tested them within a novel maze task. Prenatally exposed chicks showed decreased fearfulness to a similar degree as those postnatally exposed, revealing that both prenatal and postnatal exposure methods are capable of decreasing fear of auditory stimuli. Experiment 3 exposed chicks to a novel visual stimulus for 24 hours postnatally, then subsequently tested them within a novel emergence box / T-maze apparatus. Chicks exposed to the visual stimulus showed decreased fearfulness compared to naïve chicks, thereby demonstrating the utility of this method across sense modalities. Experiment 4 assessed whether early postnatal exposure to one novel stimulus could generalize and serve to decrease fear of novelty when chicks were tested in the presence of markedly different stimuli. By combining the methods of Experiments 1 and 3, this experiment revealed that chicks exposed to one type of stimulus (auditory or visual) demonstrated decreased fear when subsequently tested in the presence of the opposite type of novel stimulus. These results suggest that experience with novel stimuli can moderate the extent to which neophobia will develop during early development.
Suarez, Michael, "Effects of prenatal and early postnatal exposure to aversive stimuli on fearfulness and exploratory behavior in bobwhite quail neonates (Colinus virginianus)" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3705114.