Environmental Enrichment Promotes Neural Plasticity and Cognitive Ability in Fish

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 9:00 AM
Marriott Ballroom A (The Marriott Little Rock)
Anne Gro Vea Salvanes , Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Olav Moberg , University of Bergen
Lars OE Ebbesson , Uni Research
Tom Ole Nilsen , University of Bergen/Uni Research
Knut Helge Jensen , University of Bergen
Victoria Braithwaite , Biology, Penn State University, State College, PA
Different kinds of experience during early life can play a significant role in the development of an animal’s behavioural phenotype. In natural contexts this influences behaviours from anti-predator responses to navigation abilities. In contrast, for animals reared in captive environments, the homogeneous nature of their experience tends to reduce behavioural flexibility. Studies with cage-reared rodents indicate that captivity often compromises neural development and neural plasticity. Such neural and behavioural deficits can be problematic if captive bred animals are being reared with the intention of releasing them as part of a conservation strategy. Over the last decade there has been growing interest in the use of environmental enrichment to promote behavioural flexibility in animals that are bred for release. Here we describe the positive effects of environmental enrichment on neural plasticity and cognition in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Exposing fish to enriched conditions up-regulated the forebrain expression of NeuroD1 mRNA and improved learning ability assessed in a spatial task. The addition of enrichment to the captive environment thus promotes neural and behavioural changes that are likely to promote behavioural flexibility and improve post-release survival.