The hippocampus is particularly susceptible to age-related degeneration that, like hippocampal lesions, is thought to lead to age-related decline in spatial memory and navigation. Lesions to the avian hippocampal formation (HF) also result in impaired spatial memory and navigation, but the relationship between aging and HF-dependent spatial cognition is unknown. To investigate possible age-related decline in avian spatial cognition, the current study investigated spatial working memory performance in older homing pigeons (10+ years of age). Pigeons completed a behavioral procedure nearly identical to the delayed spatial, win-shift procedure in a modified radial arm maze that has been previously used to study spatial working memory in rats and pigeons. The results revealed that the older pigeons required a greater number of choices to task completion and were less accurate with their first 4 choices as compared to younger pigeons (1-2 years of age). In addition, older pigeons were more likely to adopt a stereotyped sampling strategy, which explained in part their impaired performance. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate an age-related impairment of HF-dependent, spatial memory in birds. Implications and future directions of the findings are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience