Drs. Anneleen Dewulf
Department of Experimental Psychology
H. Dunantlaan 2
9000 Gent Belgium
I am an experimental (comparative) psychologist who studies response inhibition within avian species (i.e. the domestic pigeon, Columba livia; the Japanese quail; Coturnix coturnix japonica and the lesser black-backed gull, Larus fuscus). Response inhibition refers to the ability to stop or withhold inappropriate or no-longer relevant actions, and is deemed critical for flexible and adaptive behavior.
In my PhD, I will tackle three main questions:
1) How to measure response inhibition in avian species? I will start from existing paradigms and develop new tasks where needed. In particular, I aim to move beyond the traditional laboratory tests, towards measuring response inhibition in ecological relevant and valid situations. For each task, I will also determine temporal and contextual replicability, and establish how individual variation in task performance correlates with the (control of) inappropriate behaviors (i.e. aggression, compulsivity and impulsivity) in real-life situations.
2) What are the underlying cognitive mechanisms? Or put differently, are the purported response-inhibition tasks really measuring inhibitory control? To address this question, I’ll use a systematic experimental cognitive approach, building further on recent theoretical and empirical work on response inhibition in humans and non-human species.
3) What are the underlying neuroanatomical and -chemical mechanisms? Very few studies have explored this question is avian species. This is potentially problematic, as the lack of detailed knowledge prevents (neuro)mechanical explanations of environmental effects on performance. Therefore, in my project I will also examine the effect of neuropharmocological manipulations on response inhibition (with a special focus on the serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenalin systems). Such pharmacological manipulations could then also be used as a powerful and unique tool to further study selection of behavior (Réale et al., 2007).
My research will be conducted within the Cognition, Behavior and Ecology (CoBE) lab (Department of Experimental psychology), in close collaboration with TEREC. Our testing facilities are located at the Wildlife Rescue Center in Ostend. My PhD project is supervised by Frederick Verbruggen (Ghent University), Luc Lens (Ghent University) and Joah Madden (University of Exeter).