Thermoregulation and performance of heat-reinforced autoshaped keypecking in chicks

Christopher Cunningham, Robert L. Ostroff, David F. Harris

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Performance of autoshaped keypecking reinforced by heat was found to increase and then to decrease when chicks were exposed to training under a constant thermal load on a daily basis over the first 1-2 weeks after hatching. The decline in performance was not affected by variation in US duration (Experiment 1). No decline in performance was observed when food reinforcement was used (Experiment 2), suggesting that the effect depended on the use of thermal motivation. When thermoregulation was disrupted by pharmacological blockade using propranolol hydrochloride (10 mg/kg), keypecking was reinstated (Experiment 3). The increase in keypecking produced by propranolol was not due to a nonspecific energization of behavior inasmuch as the drug depressed autoshaped keypecking established with food reinforcement (Experiment 4). These findings support the conclusion that the decline in autoshaped keypecking reinforced by heat is due to development of the chick's thermoregulatory system. Various physical changes (e.g., feathering) and the increasing effectiveness of autonomic and behavioral thermoregulatory responses reduce the net motivational value of external heat sources, thus leading to a decline in the likelihood of approach and contact with signals for heat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-72
Number of pages19
JournalBehavioral and Neural Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1989


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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