Visual Discrimination Learning in Rats Following Early Life Undernutrition: Recent Findings and Review

  • James L. Smart
  • John Tonkiss
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 28)


Smart (1977) made an exhaustive review of studies on the effects of early life undernutrition on learning ability in experimental animals. This was confined to experiments in which undernutrition was imposed in early life (gestation, suckling period, early post-weaning period) and was followed by a lengthy period of nutritional rehabilitation before behaviour was tested in adulthood. The results were found to be equivocal. In the rat, by far the most frequently-used species in this research, there were 37 experiments showing no significant difference between groups, 18 instances in which the well-nourished controls (C) performed better and 5 instances of superior performance by the previously undernourished (PU) animals. One of the several possible reasons for disagreement among the published results is that different genetic stocks have been used in different laboratories and the effects of early undernutrition may depend to some extent on the genetic constitution of the animals concerned (genotype x environment interaction). Indeed this possibility has been substantiated for behaviour in an open field (Blizard and Randt, 1974; Tonkiss and Smart, 1983a), social behaviour (Randt et al. 1975; Tonkiss and Smart, 1983a) and sexual behaviour (Tonkiss et al., 1984).


Discrimination Learning Visual Discrimination Discrimination Problem Pattern Discrimination Response Fixation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • James L. Smart
    • 1
  • John Tonkiss
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child HealthThe Medical SchoolManchesterEngland

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