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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Environmental complexity buffers against stress-induced negative judgement bias in female chickens

Zidar, Josefina; Campderrich, Irene; Jansson, Emelie; Wichman, Anette; Winberg, Svante; Keeling, Linda; Lovlie, Hanne


Cognitive processes are often biased by emotions. In humans, affective disorders are accompanied by pessimistic judgement, while optimistic judgement is linked to emotional stability. Similar to humans, animals tend to interpret ambiguous stimuli negatively after experiencing stressful events, although the long-lasting impact on judgement bias has rarely been investigated. We measure judgement bias in female chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) after exposure to cold stress, and before and after exposure to additional unpredictable stressors. Additionally, we explore if brain monoamines can explain differences in judgement bias. Chicks exposed to cold stress did not differ in judgement bias compared to controls, but showed sensitivity to additional stressors by having higher motivation for social reinstatement. Environmental complexity reduced stress-induced negative judgement bias, by maintaining an optimistic bias in individuals housed in complex conditions even after stress exposure. Moreover, judgement bias was related to dopamine turnover rate in mesencephalon, with higher activity in individuals that had a more optimistic response. These results demonstrate that environmental complexity can buffer against negative effects of additive stress and that dopamine relates to judgement bias in chicks. These results reveal that both internal and external factors can mediate emotionally biased judgement in animals, thus showing similarities to findings in humans.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2018, Volume: 8, article number: 5404