Hippocampal lesions do not disrupt navigational map retention in homing pigeons under conditions when map acquisition is hippocampal dependent

Anna Gagliardo, Paolo Ioalè, Francesca Odetti, Meghan C Kahn, Verner P Bingman
Behavioural Brain Research 2004 August 12, 153 (1): 35-42
In contrast to map-like navigation by familiar landmarks, understanding the relationship between the avian hippocampal formation (HF) and the homing pigeon navigational map has remained a challenge. With the goal of filling an empirical gap, we performed an experiment in which young homing pigeons learned a navigational map while being held in an outdoor aviary, and then half the birds were subjected to HF ablation. The question was whether HF lesion would impair retention of a navigational map learned under conditions known to require participation of HF. The pigeons, which had never flown from the aviary before, together with an additional control group that learned a navigational map with free-flight experience, were then released from two distant release sites. Contrary to expectation, the HF-lesioned birds oriented in a homeward direction in manner indistinguishable from the intact control pigeons raised in the same outdoor aviary. HF lesion did not result in a navigational map retention deficit. Together with previous results, it is now clear that regardless of the learning environment present during acquisition, HF plays no necessary role in the subsequent retention or operation of the homing pigeon navigational map.

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