The rich ethological tradition that characterizes the homing behavior of pigeons offers an excellent opportunity to examine the importance of the hippocampal formation for the regulation of spatial cognitive mechanisms. The present review summarizes both anatomical and behavioral data obtained in researches on the pigeon hippocampal formation that have been performed over the last 12 years. Pathway connection studies and investigations on the neurochemical organization of the avian hippocampal formation show that this structure shares many similarities with the mammalian hippocampus and provide the basis for structural as well as functional homology. The initial research on the role of the hippocampal formation in the homing behavior showed that this brain structure is likely to be involved in phenomena of spatial cognition. Therefore, the homing behavior of pigeons has been extensively used as an experimental model to investigate the role of the hippocampal formation in spatial cognition related to a naturally occurring behavior. These studies have revealed that the hippocampal formation plays a fundamental role in the learning of a navigational map based on atmospheric odors, but it doesn't seem to be involved in the operation of such a map. In contrast, both the learning and the operation of a navigational map based on the recognition of familiar landmarks require a functional hippocampal formation. Further investigations indicated that these functions of the hippocampal formation are mediated by its involvement in the use of the sun compass, and suggested that the hippocampal formation plays a fundamental role in a cognitive process in which the sun compass is specifically used to learn about the location of stimuli in space. The studies reviewed in the present paper have provided a considerable amount of experimental data both on the anatomical/neurochemical organization of the avian hippocampal formation and on the role played by this brain structure in spatial cognition. The future development of these researches will need to consider the contribution to hippocampal function of specific transmitter systems that are involved in hippocampal circuitry. In particular, the afferent cholinergic system and some of the peptidergic systems intrinsic to the hippocampal formation deserve particular attention in view of their possible involvement in the acquisition and/or operation of spatial cognitive abilities by homing pigeons.
|Autori:||Casini, Giovanni; Fontanesi, G.; Bingman, V.; Jones, T. J.; Gagliardo, Anna; Ioalè, P.; Bagnoli, Paola|
|Titolo:||The neuroethology of cognitive maps: contributions from research on the hippocampus and homing pigeon navigation.|
|Anno del prodotto:||1997|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|