Response-inhibition during problem solving in sheep
Response inhibition is a behavioural skill that is important for flexible behaviour and appropriate decision making. It requires the suppression of a prepotent, but inappropriate action, in order to achieve a more advantageous outcome. Response inhibition has been tested in many animal species using the cylinder task. This task requires the self-driven inhibition of an impulse to obtain a visible food reward via a detour, rather than a direct but blocked route. We have shown previously using the stop-signal task that sheep can successfully interrupt an already-started response, if a reward is going to be restricted. However, it is not known if sheep can show self-driven response inhibition in a task that provides a reward independent of performance. Here we tested two groups of sheep on the cylinder task (11 Lleyn sheep: aged 8 months; 8 Welsh mountain sheep aged ~8 years old). Sheep were trained using an opaque cylinder and all sheep successfully learned the task. When response inhibition was tested using the transparent cylinder, all sheep performed significantly better than chance, but the older sheep showed a reduced number of correct responses compared to the young sheep (72.5±5.0% and 86.4±4.3% respectively). The results show that sheep have a mechanism for self-regulating their actions in order to retrieve food faster.