Forskning ved Københavns Universitet - Københavns Universitet


Experimental evidence for a role of dopamine in avian personality traits

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  • Paulo A. Silva
  • Sandra Trigo
  • Cristiana I. Marques
  • Gonçalo C. Cardoso
  • Marta C. Soares

There is increasing interest in the genetic and physiological bases of behavioural differences among individuals, namely animal personality. One particular dopamine (DA) receptor gene (the dopamine receptor D4 gene) has been used as candidate gene to explain personality differences, but with mixed results. Here, we used an alternative approach, exogenously manipulating the dopaminergic system and testing for effects on personality assays in a social bird species, the common waxbill (Estrilda astrild). We treated birds with agonists and antagonists for DA receptors of both D1 and D2 receptor pathways (the latter includes the D4 receptor) and found that short-term manipulation of DA signalling had an immediate effect on personality-related behaviours. In an assay of social responses (mirror test), manipulation of D2 receptor pathways reduced time spent looking at the social stimulus (mirror image). Blocking D2 receptors reduced motor activity in this social assay, while treatment with a D2 receptor agonist augmented activity in this social assay but reduced activity in a non-social behavioural assay. Also, in the non-social assay, treatment with the D1 receptor antagonist markedly increased time spent at the feeder. These results show distinct and context-specific effects of the dopaminergic pathways on waxbill personality traits. Our results also suggest that experimental manipulation of DA signalling can disrupt a behavioural correlation (more active individuals being less attentive to mirror image) that is habitually observed as part of a behavioural syndrome in waxbills. We discuss our results in the context of animal personality, and the role of the DA system in reward and social behaviour.

TidsskriftThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2020

ID: 237845186