Cognitive Appraisal of Environmental Stimuli Induces Emotion-Like States in Fish

Sci Rep. 2017 Oct 13;7(1):13181. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-13173-x.

Abstract

The occurrence of emotions in non-human animals has been the focus of debate over the years. Recently, an interest in expanding this debate to non-tetrapod vertebrates and to invertebrates has emerged. Within vertebrates, the study of emotion in teleosts is particularly interesting since they represent a divergent evolutionary radiation from that of tetrapods, and thus they provide an insight into the evolution of the biological mechanisms of emotion. We report that Sea Bream exposed to stimuli that vary according to valence (positive, negative) and salience (predictable, unpredictable) exhibit different behavioural, physiological and neuromolecular states. Since according to the dimensional theory of emotion valence and salience define a two-dimensional affective space, our data can be interpreted as evidence for the occurrence of distinctive affective states in fish corresponding to each the four quadrants of the core affective space. Moreover, the fact that the same stimuli presented in a predictable vs. unpredictable way elicited different behavioural, physiological and neuromolecular states, suggests that stimulus appraisal by the individual, rather than an intrinsic characteristic of the stimulus, has triggered the observed responses. Therefore, our data supports the occurrence of emotion-like states in fish that are regulated by the individual's perception of environmental stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Fishes / physiology*