Master of Science (MSc)
Faculty of Science
Research on the social transmission of food preference (STFP) has shown that preferences for specific foods can be transmitted between conspecifics (Bilkó et al., 1994; Wrenn et al., 2003; Hikami et al., 1990; Galef et al., 1984; Galef & Wigmore, 1983; Lupfer et al., 2003). Although these findings provide an understanding of how food related information is shared, none explore the influence that personality may have on various factors of STFP, as well as how this transmission may occur in a naturalistic foraging setting. In the current thesis, individual personality was assessed and rats were placed into same/different preference foraging pairs within a novel arena, to explore the dynamics of STFP development and transmission between pairs of rats.
In addition to investigating behavioural factors affecting STFP, I examined how development of a preference based on exposure to an odour might alter the representation of that odour within the rodent brain. As shown in previous studies, exposing rat pups to a novel odour paired with tactile stimulation led to that odour being preferred and also being represented by a larger ensemble of mitral cells that is more reliably recruited upon re-exposure to the odour (Shakhawat et al., 2014). Since the pairing of carbon disulfide with a novel food odour will create a preference in the subject during STFP, I hypothesized that this pairing, like tactile stimulation, could alter the olfactory representation of the odour (Galef et al., 1984).
My findings reveal that personality does not affect the strength of an individual’s food preference. Bolder individuals spend less time eating while foraging. In addition, less bold individuals spend a large proportion of their foraging time eating while their partner is also eating, which I defined as an overlap score. A larger recruitment of mitral cells within the main olfactory bulb did not occur upon presentation of the preferred odour. However, distinct activation patterns were present upon exposure to different odours, suggesting that differentiation of the stimuli was visible at the neuronal level but integration of social information must take place further downstream.
Damphousse, Chelsey, "Neural and Social Mechanisms Behind the Social Transmission of Food Preference" (2017). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1960.