In the present study, we sought to determine the influence of stress and temperament on working memory for disappearing food in horses. After assessment of five dimensions of temperament, we tested working memory of horses using a delayed-response task requiring a choice between two food locations. Delays ranging from 0 to 20. s were tested. The duration of working memory for disappearing food was first characterized without stressors (N=26). The horses were then divided into two groups and their performance was assessed under stressful (exposure to acute stressors prior to testing, N=12) or control conditions (N=12). Results showed that the duration of working memory for disappearing food lasted at least 20. s under nonstressful conditions, and that under stressful conditions this duration lasted less than 12. s. This stress-induced impairment confirms in a nonrodent species that working memory performance is very sensitive to exposure to stressors. In addition, working memory performance in horses is influenced by the temperamental dimension of fearfulness according to the state of stress: fearful horses showed better performance under control conditions and worse performance under stressful conditions than nonfearful horses. These findings are discussed in the context of the Yerkes-Dodson law of stress and performance.
- Delayed-response task emotion
- Equus caballus
- Individual difference