Université de Strasbourg

The eco-physiology of cognition

Eco-Physiology of Cognition: a New and Integrative Research Field

USIAS Fellow: Carsten Schradin
Post-doc : Audrey Maille

As a consequence of global change, extreme environmental events threaten biodiversity, causing the 6th extinction. Droughts are predicted to become more severe in the future, reducing food availability and influencing the physiology of free ranging animals. Numerous studies on humans have demonstrated the significant influence of environmental stressors on cognition. Decades of studies have demonstrated impressive cognitive skills in animals under ideal conditions in captivity, but the extent to which cognition is affected by environmental stress is unknown. Increased environmental stress due to anthropologically induced climate change might impair cognitive abilities of free ranging animals, such as responses to predators, social intelligence and decision-making, and the probability of extinction of species may be significantly raised.

Surprisingly, scientists have not addressed this issue. Students of cognition typically have little experience of physiology while students of physiology typically do not consider cognition. Therefore I will investigate how cognitive tasks (attention, spatial memory) in free ranging animals are influenced by their physiological state. Strasbourg through the IPHC is an international centre for research on animal cognition and eco-physiology. Establishing the new field of eco-physiology of cognition can contribute to making Strasbourg a leading centre for research on global climate change.

Field station South Africa

France 2030