Institute of Neuroscience

Early-life adversity & adult cognition

Early-life adversity and adult cognition: The European starling as an experimental model

In humans, adversity experienced during childhood is associated with cognitive outcomes such as increased impulsivity and vulnerability to depression many years later. Developmental work is hard to do in humans as they grow up so slowly and we have no experimental control over what kind of early life they have.

In this project, we are seeking to understand the impact of early adversity in another intelligent, long-lived animal where we do have greater experimental control and the developmental period is much more compressed: the starling.

By using cross-fostering we can subtly alter early experience (for example, how often the birds are fed and how hard they have to beg). We can then examine the impacts of early experience on how the physiological capacities of the birds, as well as their decision-making and their responses to stressors.

Newcastle University staff and students linked to the project:

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