BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH
Chicks hatched from eggs incubated in the dark (D-chicks) or from eggs exposed to light during the last 3 days before hatching (L-chicks) were trained on day 4 to peck at small cones for food reinforcement. The cones had different patterns (checked or striped) and were located in different positions (either on the left or on the right of a rectangular arena) so as both object-specific (pattern) and position-specific cues could be used to discriminate cones that contained or that did not contain food. After learning, the position of the cones was reversed so that object- and position-specific cues provided contradictory information. No effect of light incubation was observed in binocular chicks that chose cones on the basis of object-specific cues. Monocular D-chicks also tended to approach and peck the cones with the correct pattern in the wrong position, whereas monocular L-chicks did not show any clear choice. Initial choices for one side or other of the arena were mostly determined by the first side visible through the non-occluded eye in D-chicks, particularly when using their left eye. These results suggest that light exposure of the embryo makes neural mechanisms that do not receive direct visual input (i.e., those of the occluded side) more available to be used in assessment of novelty.
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