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Neuro-economics in chicks: Foraging choices based on amount, delay and cost

Brain Research Bulletin
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2008.02.007
  • Optimal Foraging Theory
  • Choice
  • Profitability
  • Impulsiveness
  • Self-Control
  • Rationality
  • Evolution
  • Economics


Abstract Studies on the foraging choices are reviewed, with an emphasis on the neural representations of elementary factors of food ( i.e., amount, delay and consumption time) in the avian brain. Domestic chicks serve as an ideal animal model in this respect, as they quickly associate cue colors with subsequently supplied food rewards, and their choices are quantitatively linked with the rewards. When a pair of such color cues was simultaneously presented, the trained chicks reliably made choices according to the profitability of food associated with each color. Two forebrain regions are involved in distinct aspects of choices; i.e., nucleus accumbens–medial striatum (Ac-MSt) and arcopallium intermedium (AI), an association area in the lateral forebrain. Localized lesions of Ac-MSt enhanced delay aversion, and the ablated chicks made impulsive choices of immediate reward more frequently than sham controls. On the other hand, lesions of AI enhanced consumption-time aversion, and the ablated chicks shifted their choices toward easily consumable reward with their impulsiveness unchanged; delay and consumption time are thus doubly dissociated. Furthermore, chicks showed distinct patterns of risk-sensitive choices depending on the factor that varied at trials. Risk aversion occurred when food amount varied, whereas consistent risk sensitivity was not found when the delay varied; amount and delay were not interchangeable. Choices are thus deviated from those predicted as optima. Instead, factors such as amount, delay and consumption time could be separately represented and processed to yield economically sub-optimal choices.

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