Buenhombre, J., Daza-Cardona, E. A., Sousa, P. et al. 2023. Structural environmental enrichment and the way it is offered influence cognitive judgement bias and anxiety-like behaviours in zebrafish. Animal Cognition 26, 563–577.
Environmental enrichment in zebrafish generally reduces anxiety-related behaviours, improves learning in maze trials and increases health and biological fitness. However, certain types of enrichment or certain conditions induce the opposite effects. Therefore, it is essential to study the characteristics of environmental enrichment that modulate these effects. This study aims to investigate if structural environmental enrichment and the way it is offered influence cognitive judgement bias and anxiety-like behaviours in adult zebrafish. The fish were assigned to six housing manipulations: constant barren, constant enrichment, gradual gain of enrichment, gradual loss of enrichment, sudden gain of enrichment and sudden loss of enrichment. We then transposed the cognitive judgment bias paradigm, formerly used in studies on other animals to measure the link between emotion and cognition, to objectively assess the impact of these manipulations on the zebrafish’s interpretation of ambiguous stimuli, considering previous experiences and related emotional states. We used two battery tests (light/dark and activity tests), which measured anxiety-related behaviours to check if these tests covariate with cognitive bias results. The fish with a sudden gain in enrichment showed a pessimistic bias (interpreted ambiguous stimuli as negative). In addition, the fish that experienced a sudden gain and a gradual loss in enrichment showed more anxiety-like behaviours than the fish that experienced constant conditions or a gradual gain in enrichment. The data provide some proof that structural environmental enrichment and the way it is presented can alter zebrafish's cognitive bias and anxiety-like behaviours.