Research Topic

The translational value of non-mammalian in vivo models of executive function and cognition

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About this Research Topic

Comparative cognition has been an active field for over 100 years. The field was an active interest of George Romanes as well as past luminaries in ethology and experimental psychology such as C. Lloyd Morgan, Tolman and Thorndike. Early studies focussed on mammals and non-human primates but rapidly expanded ...

Comparative cognition has been an active field for over 100 years. The field was an active interest of George Romanes as well as past luminaries in ethology and experimental psychology such as C. Lloyd Morgan, Tolman and Thorndike. Early studies focussed on mammals and non-human primates but rapidly expanded to include other vertebrate and invertebrate species, including birds, fish, flies, ants, bees, and spiders. The advent of behavioural ecology reinforced ethology's tradition of elegant field studies designed to explore memory for food caches, navigation, communication, tool use, identification of conspecifics, and many other matters. In the laboratory, these animals now push levers for food, navigate mazes, or respond to images on computer screens in discrimination, attention, memory and counting experiments. For example, zebrafish have been shown to perform on tasks of executive function, bumblebees have been shown to perform reversal learning and matching to sample and paper wasps have shown social discrimination. In many cases, these techniques have been automated to increase throughput and reliability, as well as providing the opportunity for the generation of large datasets for the purposes of model validation. Coupled with these new behavioural analyses, recent advances in molecular biology (TILLING and zinc finger nucleases, CRISPR, Tol2 and Gal4:UAS systems, genetically encoded indicators of neural activity, and optogenetics), imaging techniques (molecular reporters) and comparative genomics have led to the increased realisation that non-mammalian species can give valuable information about the biological underpinnings of cognition. By helping to unravel the molecular complexities of behavioural neuroscience these studies give insight into human brain function.

This research topic will collate studies from non-mammalian species where the goal of the research is grounded in addressing questions of a translational nature. It includes validations of new behavioural approaches and animal models, technical reports about automation of techniques, reviews of new species’ potential in translational behavioural neuroscience and critical reviews of methodological advances in non-mammalian species.


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