Red junglefowl, also known as ancestors of modern-day domesticated chickens, was theorized to contain gene expressions similar to the variety of impulsivity humans have. Sweden's Linköping University lead the junglefowl study to understand better the correlation between the gene expression of the chicken ancestors and humans.

Impulsivity Observed in Chicken Ancestor

(Photo: Thomas Hardwicke / WikiCommons)

Impulsivity is known to be among the extraordinary traits of humans. Individuals that experience more impulsivity are more likely to react or respond to a certain occurrence rapidly.

However, the downside of being more impulsive is the lack of deduction that leads to unwanted plans. Impulsivity is present not only in humans but in other species as well. However, the trait, even though experienced by many, is still a mystery for experts due to limited data and few examinations.

Linköping University's Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology expert and lead author of the study Hanne Løvlie explained in a report by PhysOrg that variance of impulsivity is indeed puzzling. Moreover, individuals that experience high impulsivity are prone to negative repercussions.

Løvlie added that high impulsivity, such as an attitude of risking without solid evidence or effect or outcomes, is still a question to today's evolution. The expert said that natural selection picks specific traits and behaviors that will maintain the good benefits of an individual.

However, impulsivity disrupts that idea, as the trait differs significantly from one person to another. With that said, Linköping University conducted extensive research to determine the root cause of impulsivity, its potential underlying factors, and how these factors impact the behavior.

The red junglefowl, also known as Gallus gallus, is selected by the team from Linköping University to study the baffling impulsive trait. The red junglefowl is known in evolutionary studies as the ancestors of the domestic chickens we see today.

Gallus gallus is a fowl that is often used as the subject of research regarding human behavior mainly because of its similar traits in cognitive and behavioral ability, as well as its intelligence.

The impulsivity investigation included several experiments, such as the classic reward test, in which the red junglefowl chicks were presented with a mealworm on the other side of a transparent tube. The chicks have already learned before the reward phase that the mealworm can be attained by reaching it through the open area of the tube instead of going through the transparent material.

As they attempted the impossible option, the experts recorded each peck of the red junglefowl chicks, as each count relates to how impulsive they are. The reward phase was repeated many times, and with the consecutive pecks, the chicks have learned how to control and decrease their impulsivity.

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Impulsivity: Cognitive Enrichment and Gene Expression

The red junglefowl chicks were each selected from three various groups. The first group was given a treatment to improve their cognitive abilities. The second group was allowed to expose themselves to the cognitive tests but were not given any treatment for cognitive improvement. The last group did not receive any cognitive enrichment at all.

The results were surprising, as the group that received cognitive enrichment was more impulsive than those that did not. This was contrary to the team's expectations, but it supports the previous examinations on impulsivity and cognitive enrichment correlations.

This variation between the two groups of chicks is also influenced by gene expression, which allows them to impact the chicks' brain signaling, dopamine, and serotonin systems, all of which are linked to impulsive behavior.

The study was published in the journal Animal Behaviour, titled "Impulsivity Is Affected by Cognitive Enrichment and Links to Brain Gene Expression in Red Junglefowl Chicks."

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