Coordinated movement is influenced by prenatal light experience in bobwhite quail chicks (Colinus virginianus)

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Sensory-motor development begins early during embryogenesis and is influenced by sensory experience. Little is known about the prenatal factors that influence the development of motor coordination. Here we investigated whether and to what extent prenatal light experience can influence the development of motor coordination in bobwhite quail hatchlings. Quail embryos were incubated under four light conditions: no light (dark), 2 h of total light (2HR), 6 h of total light (6HR), and diffused sunlight (controls). Hatchlings were video recording walking down a runway at three developmental ages (12, 24, and 48 h). Videos were assessed for forward locomotion, a measurement of motor coordination, falls, a measurement of motor instability, and motivation to complete the task. We anticipated a linear decline of coordination with a reduction in prenatal light experience and improved coordination with age. Furthermore, as motor coordination becomes more laborious we anticipated motivation to complete the task would decline. However, our findings revealed hatchlings did not uniformly improve with age as expected, nor did the reduction of light result in a linear reduction in motor coordination. Instead, we found a more complex relationship with 6HR and 2HR hatchlings showing distinct patterns of stability and instability. Similarly, we found a reduction in motivation within the 6HR light condition. It appears that prenatal light exposure influences the development of postnatal motor coordination and we discuss these finding in light of neurodevelopmental processes influenced by light experience.

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