Pigeons as a model species for cognitive neuroscience

O. Güntürkün 1 , M.C. Stüttgen 2 ,  and M. Manns 1
  • 1 Faculty of Psychology, Department of Biopsychology, Ruhr-University Bochum 44780 Bochum, Germany
  • 2 Institute of Pathophysiology, University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University 55128 Mainz, Germany


Deeper understanding of the neuronal basis of behavior and its evolution requires inves­tigation of model organisms taken from dif­ferent taxonomic groups. The merits of this comparative approach are highlighted by re­search on birds: while their cognitive capaci­ties have long been underestimated, research on avian model systems more recently has begun to provide central insights into the functional organization of the brain. In partic­ular, domesticated homing pigeons (Colum­ba livia) have been used as a model for the study of the psychological processes under­lying learning, memory, and choice behav­ior, and much of current animal learning the­ory is based on findings with pigeons. More­over, the vast amount of available behavior­al and anatomical data has rendered the pi­geon one of the key model species of behav­ioral and comparative neuroscience. This ar­ticle illustrates some insights gained from re­search with pigeons with applicability be­yond the class of aves.

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Neuroforum publishes invited review articles from all areas in neuroscience. The readership includes besides basic and medical neuroscientists, practicing physicians, school teachers, students and journalists. Besides the review articles, Neuroforum publishes short reports on new methods and developments in neurosciences, on research institutes, research groups and programs, book reviews and the newsletter of the German Neuroscience Society.