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Brain size affects performance in a reversal-learning test
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7366-1868
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Number of Authors: 52018 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 285, no 1871, article id 20172031Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

It has become increasingly clear that a larger brain can confer cognitive benefits. Yet not all of the numerous aspects of cognition seem to be affected by brain size. Recent evidence suggests that some more basic forms of cognition, for instance colour vision, are not influenced by brain size. We therefore hypothesize that a larger brain is especially beneficial for distinct and gradually more complex aspects of cognition. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the performance of brain size selected female guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in two distinct aspects of cognition that differ in cognitive complexity. In a standard reversal-learning test we first investigated basic learning ability with a colour discrimination test, then reversed the reward contingency to specifically test for cognitive flexibility. We found that large-brained females outperformed small-brained females in the reversed-learning part of the test but not in the colour discrimination part of the test. Large-brained individuals are hence cognitively more flexible, which probably yields fitness benefits, as they may adapt more quickly to social and/or ecological cognitive challenges. Our results also suggest that a larger brain becomes especially advantageous with increasing cognitive complexity. These findings corroborate the significance of brain size for cognitive evolution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 285, no 1871, article id 20172031
Keywords [en]
brain evolution, cognition, associative learning, colour discrimination, behavioural flexibility, Poecilia reticulata
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-153805DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2031ISI: 000423774700006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-153805DiVA, id: diva2:1189952
Available from: 2018-03-13 Created: 2018-03-13 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved

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Kotrschal, Alexandervan der Bijl, WouterKolm, Niclas
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