Animal species, including humans, display patterns of individual variability in cognition that are difficult to explain. For instance, some individuals perform well in certain cognitive tasks but show difficulties in others. We experimentally analysed the contribution of cognitive plasticity to such variability. Theory suggests that diametrically opposed cognitive phenotypes increase individuals' fitness in environments with different conditions such as resource predictability. Therefore, if selection has generated plasticity that matches individuals' cognitive phenotypes to the environment, this might produce remarkable cognitive variability. We found that guppies, Poecilia reticulata, exposed to an environment with high resource predictability (i.e. food available at the same time and in the same location) developed enhanced learning abilities. Conversely, guppies exposed to an environment with low resource predictability (i.e. food available at a random time and location) developed enhanced cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control. These cognitive differences align along a trade-off between functions that favour the acquisition of regularities such as learning and functions that adjust behaviour to changing conditions (cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control). Therefore, adaptive cognitive plasticity in response to resource predictability (and potentially similar factors) is a key determinant of cognitive individual differences.

Adaptive phenotypic plasticity induces individual variability along a cognitive trade-off

Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone
Primo
;
Montalbano, Giulia
Secondo
;
Bertolucci, Cristiano
Ultimo
2023

Abstract

Animal species, including humans, display patterns of individual variability in cognition that are difficult to explain. For instance, some individuals perform well in certain cognitive tasks but show difficulties in others. We experimentally analysed the contribution of cognitive plasticity to such variability. Theory suggests that diametrically opposed cognitive phenotypes increase individuals' fitness in environments with different conditions such as resource predictability. Therefore, if selection has generated plasticity that matches individuals' cognitive phenotypes to the environment, this might produce remarkable cognitive variability. We found that guppies, Poecilia reticulata, exposed to an environment with high resource predictability (i.e. food available at the same time and in the same location) developed enhanced learning abilities. Conversely, guppies exposed to an environment with low resource predictability (i.e. food available at a random time and location) developed enhanced cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control. These cognitive differences align along a trade-off between functions that favour the acquisition of regularities such as learning and functions that adjust behaviour to changing conditions (cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control). Therefore, adaptive cognitive plasticity in response to resource predictability (and potentially similar factors) is a key determinant of cognitive individual differences.
2023
Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone; Montalbano, Giulia; Bertolucci, Cristiano
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/2533870
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