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Effect of repetitive visual stimuli on behaviour and plasma corticosterone of European starlings

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image of Animal Biology

Flickering light can cause adverse effects in some humans, as can rhythmic spatial patterns of particular frequencies. We investigated whether birds react to the temporal frequency of standard 100 Hz fluorescent lamps and the spatial frequency of the visual surround in the manner predicted by the human literature, by examining their effects on the preferences, behaviour and plasma corticosterone of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). We predicted that high frequency lighting (> 30 kHz) and a relatively low spatial frequency on the walls of their cages (0.1 cycle cm−1) would be less aversive than low frequency lighting (100 Hz) and a relatively high spatial frequency (2.5 cycle cm−1). Birds had strong preferences for both temporal and spatial frequencies. These preferences did not always fit with predictions, although there was evidence that 100 Hz was more stressful than 30 kHz lighting, as birds were less active and basal corticosterone levels were higher under 100 Hz lighting. Our chosen spatial frequencies had no overall significant effect on corticosterone levels. Although there are clearly effects of, and interactions between, the frequency of the light and the visual surround on the behaviour and physiology of birds, the pattern of results is not straightforward.


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