Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Sick animals struggle to problem solve and adapt to changing environments

Even common infections can come with acute or long-lasting cognitive symptoms; One of the most famous examples is “Covid Fog”. In a review published July 21 in the journal Trends in Ecology and EvolutionCognitive and disease ecologists discuss how transition-related declines in learning, memory, or decision-making can affect how animals such as birds and bees adapt to urbanization or climate change.

“Cognitive impairment may contribute to population decline, especially for species that rely heavily on learning and memory.” The authors, including Professor Dana Hawley and Kendra Sewall of Virginia Tech and Anne Leonard of the University of Nevada, say the authors. “Impaired cognitive performance may compromise some animals’ ability to exploit urbanized and other rapidly changing habitats, where problem solving may be particularly important.”

The effect of disease on cognitive abilities can vary widely from animal to animal, depending on the animal’s survival strategy and how the pathogen or parasite appears in the body. For example, social animals such as ants and humans may miss out on learning opportunities due to avoidance of high-risk areas or individuals, a behavior known as the “hate landscape”.

Infection early in life can also make animals more vulnerable. For example, young canaries that are infected plasmodium When they are learning songs they may have less song performance and complexity as adults. Impairment can also occur indirectly as a result of malnutrition or from the animal’s own immune response.

“A challenge in all studies of cognitive ecology is the lack of comparable data across taxa,” the authors say. “Understanding how infection affects specific cognitive abilities will require research across a broad breadth of hosts and pathogens, targeting similar aspects of cognition (eg, spatial learning; problem solving; general versus specialized cognitive abilities). capability), and to standardize experimental paradigms as much as possible.”

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