Role of the prenatal environment in the development of food neophobia: olfactory and hormonal regulation in birds
We propose a program of fundamental research to investigate whether in ovo experience can regulate the expression of food neophobia in domestic chicks. We will analyze the neuronal circuits and genes involved in the regulation of this behavior. Ou project could shed light on new potential convergences across vertebrates. Additionally, it may lead to the development of innovative feed engineering solutions.
Our proposed project will combine the efforts of researchers from different backgrounds-ethology, neurobiology, and molecular genetics. We'll reveal the neuronal circuits involved in the non-acceptance of novel foods. We'll also try to find the genes which could potentialy be involved in the regulation of food neophobia.
The first data showed that young chicks used their olfactory experience to orient their feeding behavior. Although non-expected we observed that maternal diet may be implicated in the regulation of food neophobia of the offspring. These results open a new line of research dealing with the quality of the maternal diet.
Our first results point out that the quality of the maternal diet may influence the development of the behavior of the offspring. Additional work is thus needed. We plan to investigate whether fatty acids in the maternal diet influence the development of cognitive abilities and behavior of the offspring.
One article in an international journal was published in 2013. Two invited talks will be given in 2014. One to an international scientific meeting and another one to professional breeders (France). 3 posters were also presented.
Food neophobia is an emotional response induced when a forager encounters a new food in its environment, and must decide whether this food is edible. Food neophobia has been documented in a large range of taxa, including humans. However, the developmental causes remain to be elucidated. In this context, we propose a program of fundamental research, to investigate whether chemosensory (olfactory/gustatory) stimulation and steroids of maternal origin experienced during embryonic life can specifically regulate the expression of food neophobia.
Avian species constitute a suitable model for studying prenatal effects on the ontogeny of food neophobia, because the content of avian eggs is more easily controllable than that of a uterine environment. The first step of our proposed project will be to determine whether the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) fetus memorizes the olfactory/gustatory properties of the maternal diet. Next, we will test the hypothesis that an olfactory continuity with the maternal diet can enhance the acceptance of novel foods presented to offspring. This will be investigated by supplementing the mother hen’s diet with a specific olfactory signature (isoamyl acetate conjugated with lipids). The transfer of odorized lipids from the hen’s diet to the egg yolk will expose embryos to a specific chemosensory environment. In birds, yolk steroids of maternal origin were recently identified as powerful regulators of the propensity of offspring to express fear responses; moreover, these steroids interfere with the perceptual learning of embryo. Consequently, the second step of our proposed project will be to determine whether yolk steroid levels can influence the development of fear responses toward novel foods. This will be achieved by experimentally elevating steroid levels in the egg yolk. We will also characterize the interactive effect of olfactory/gustatory stimulation and steroid hormones in the development of prenatal memory, feeding behavior, and food neophobia. The third step of our proposed project will be to analyze the neuronal circuits and genes involved in the regulation of food neophobia. The ultimate goal will be to obtain a new model for the central regulation of feed intake in poultry, which will consider prenatal experience, memory, and emotional circuits.
Our proposed project will combine the efforts of young researchers from different backgrounds—ethology, neurobiology, and molecular genetics. This complementary multidisciplinary approach will provide a new integrative view of the processes involved in cells, genes, neuronal circuits, environmental signals, and behavior. Our findings will not only offer new insights into the field of maternal effects and feeding behavior in vertebrates, but may also have short-term applications in the fields of poultry farming and animal welfare. By combining the highest standards of knowledge, methodological approaches, and skills developed in these fields, our project will bring all the conditions to be successful.
Madame Aline BERTIN (INSTITUT NATIONALE DE LA RECHERCHE AGRONOMIQUE) – firstname.lastname@example.org
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
INRA INSTITUT NATIONALE DE LA RECHERCHE AGRONOMIQUE
Help of the ANR 175,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2012 - 36 Months