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Traffic noise inhibits cognitive performance in a songbird

Citation

Osbrink, Alison et al. (2021), Traffic noise inhibits cognitive performance in a songbird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j9kd51cbc

Abstract

Noise pollution is commonly associated with human environments and mounting evidence indicates that noise has a variety of negative effects on wildlife. Noise has also been linked to cognitive impairment in humans and because many animals use cognitively-intensive processes to overcome environmental challenges, noise pollution has the potential to interfere with cognitive function in animals living in urban areas or near roads. We experimentally examined how road traffic noise impacts avian cognitive performance by testing adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) on a battery of foraging tasks in the presence or absence of traffic noise playback. Here we show that traffic noise reduces cognitive performance, including inhibitory control, motor learning, spatial memory, and social learning, but not associative color learning. This study demonstrates a novel mechanism through which anthropogenic noise can impact animals, namely through cognitive interference, and suggests that noise pollution may have previously unconsidered consequences for animals.