Serotonin blockade delays learning performance in a cooperative fish.Anim Cogn. 2016 09; 19(5):1027-30.AC
Animals use learning and memorizing to gather information that will help them to make ecologically relevant decisions. Neuro-modulatory adjustments enable them to make associations between stimuli and appropriate behavior. A key candidate for the modulation of cooperative behavior is serotonin. Previous research has shown that modulation of the serotonergic system spontaneously affects the behavior of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus during interactions with so-called 'client' reef fish. Here, we asked whether shifts in serotonin function affect the cleaners' associative learning abilities when faced with the task to distinguish two artificial clients that differ in their value as a food source. We found that the administration of serotonin 1A receptor antagonist significantly slowed learning speed in comparison with saline treated fish. As reduced serotonergic signaling typically enhances fear, we discuss the possibility that serotonin may affect how cleaners appraise, acquire information and respond to client-derived stimuli via manipulation of the perception of danger.