Stimulation of dopamine D₁ receptor improves learning capacity in cooperating cleaner fish.Proc Biol Sci. 2016 01 27; 283(1823)PB
Accurate contextual decision-making strategies are important in social environments. Specific areas in the brain are tasked to process these complex interactions and generate correct follow-up responses. The dorsolateral and dorsomedial parts of the telencephalon in the teleost fish brain are neural substrates modulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA), and are part of an important neural circuitry that drives animal behaviour from the most basic actions such as learning to search for food, to properly choosing partners and managing decisions based on context. The Indo-Pacific cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus is a highly social teleost fish species with a complex network of interactions with its 'client' reef fish. We asked if changes in DA signalling would affect individual learning ability by presenting cleaner fish two ecologically different tasks that simulated a natural situation requiring accurate decision-making. We demonstrate that there is an involvement of the DA system and D1 receptor pathways on cleaners' natural abilities to learn both tasks. Our results add significantly to the growing literature on the physiological mechanisms that underlie and facilitate the expression of cooperative abilities.