Animal Cognition

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 839–844 | Cite as

Testing visual short-term memory of pigeons (Columba livia) and a rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) with a location change detection task

  • Kenneth J. LeisingEmail author
  • L. Caitlin Elmore
  • Jacquelyne J. Rivera
  • John F. Magnotti
  • Jeffrey S. Katz
  • Anthony A. Wright
Short Communication


Change detection is commonly used to assess capacity (number of objects) of human visual short-term memory (VSTM). Comparisons with the performance of non-human animals completing similar tasks have shown similarities and differences in object-based VSTM, which is only one aspect (“what”) of memory. Another important aspect of memory, which has received less attention, is spatial short-term memory for “where” an object is in space. In this article, we show for the first time that a monkey and pigeons can be accurately trained to identify location changes, much as humans do, in change detection tasks similar to those used to test object capacity of VSTM. The subject’s task was to identify (touch/peck) an item that changed location across a brief delay. Both the monkey and pigeons showed transfer to delays longer than the training delay, to greater and smaller distance changes than in training, and to novel colors. These results are the first to demonstrate location-change detection in any non-human species and encourage comparative investigations into the nature of spatial and visual short-term memory.


Change detection Visual short-term memory Working memory Monkey Pigeon 



Support for this research was provided by NIH Grant MH-072616 (A. A. Wright). This research was conducted following the relevant ethics guidelines for research with animals and was approved by UTHSC’s institutional IACUC.

Supplementary material

10071_2013_644_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 47 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 4255 kb)

10071_2013_644_MOESM3_ESM.docx (46 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth J. Leising
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. Caitlin Elmore
    • 2
  • Jacquelyne J. Rivera
    • 3
  • John F. Magnotti
    • 3
  • Jeffrey S. Katz
    • 4
  • Anthony A. Wright
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Neurobiology and AnatomyUniversity of Texas Health Science Center Medical SchoolHoustonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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