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GPS tracking technology and re-visiting the relationship between the avian visual Wulst and homing pigeon navigation.

Within their familiar areas homing pigeons rely on familiar visual landscape features and landmarks for homing. However, the neural basis of visual landmark-based navigation has been so far investigated mainly in relation to the role of the hippocampal formation. The avian visual Wulst is the telencephalic projection field of the thalamofugal pathway that has been suggested to be involved in processing lateral visual inputs that originate from the far visual field. The Wulst is therefore a good candidate for a neural structure participating in the visual control of familiar visual landmark-based navigation. We repeatedly released and tracked Wulst-lesioned and control homing pigeons from three sites about 10-15 km from the loft. Wulst lesions did not impair the ability of the pigeons to orient homeward during the first release from each of the three sites nor to localise the loft within the home area. In addition, Wulst-lesioned pigeons displayed unimpaired route fidelity acquisition to a repeated homing path compared to the intact birds. However, compared to control birds, Wulst-lesioned pigeons displayed persistent oscillatory flight patterns across releases, diminished attention to linear (leading lines) landscape features, such as roads and wood edges, and less direct flight paths within the home area. Differences and similarities between the effects of Wulst and hippocampal lesions suggest that although the visual Wulst does not seem to play a direct role in the memory representation of a landscape-landmark map, it does seem to participate in influencing the perceptual construction of such a map.

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