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Anim Cogn. 2013 Nov;16(6):1001-6. doi: 10.1007/s10071-013-0648-5. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

Characterization of long-term memory, resistance to extinction, and influence of temperament during two instrumental tasks in horses.

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INRA, UMR85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, 37380, Nouzilly, France,


The present study investigated the influence of temperament on long-term recall and extinction of 2 instrumental tasks in 26 horses. In the first task (backward task), horses learned to walk backward, using commands given by an experimenter, in order to obtain a food reward. In the second task (active avoidance task), horses had to cross an obstacle after a bell rang in order to avoid emission of an air puff. Twenty-two months after acquisition, horses exhibited perfect recall performance in both tasks. Accordingly, no influence of temperament on recall performance could be observed for either task. In contrast, in the absence of positive or negative outcomes, the horses' ability to extinguish their response to either task was highly variable. Resistance to extinction was related to some indicators of temperament: The most fearful horses tended to be the most resistant to extinction in the backward task, while the least sensitive horses tended to be the most resistant to extinction in the active avoidance task. These findings reveal extensive long-term memory abilities in horses and suggest an influence of temperament on learning processes other than acquisition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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