Skip to main content
Log in

Neural basis of the magnetic compass: interactions of visual, magnetic and vestibular inputs in the pigeon's brain

  • Published:
Journal of Comparative Physiology A Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Summary

Single unit electrical activity was recorded extracellularly in the lateral and superior vestibular nuclei, the vestibulo-cerebellum and the nucleus of the basal optic root (nBOR) under earth-strength magnetic stimulation. Units in the vestibular system responded with either inhibition or excitation to the magnetic stimuli only if the animal was moved out of the horizontal plane. No responses to the artificial magnetic field were observed when enucleation was performed contralateral to the recording site or when magnetic stimuli were applied in total darkness.

Most of the units in the nBOR responded to slow direction changes in the magnetic field with a gradual augmentation of activity. The responses were generally weak but nevertheless statistically significant and seemed to be direction selective, i.e. different cells responded to a different distinct direction change of the magnetic field.

The results indicate, that information provided by magnetic cues in the earth's strength range may be conveyed from the visual to the vestibular system via a projection from the nBOR and then related to active movements of the animal.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Abbreviations

nBOR :

nucleus of the basal optic root

References

  • Baker RR (1984) Signal magnetite and direction finding. Phys Technol 15:30–36

    Google Scholar 

  • Beason RC, Nichols JE (1984) Magnetic orientation and magnetically sensitive material in a transequatorial migratory bird. Nature 309:151–153

    Google Scholar 

  • Brauth SE, Karten HJ (1977) Direct accessory optic projections to the vestibulo-cerebellum: a possible channel for oculomotor control systems. Exp Brain Res 28:73–84

    Google Scholar 

  • Brecha N, Karten HJ, Hunt SP (1980) Projections of the nucleus of the basal optic root in the pigeon: an autoradiographic and horseradish peroxidase study. J Comp Neurol 189:615–670

    Google Scholar 

  • Britto LRG, Natal CL, Marcondes AM (1981) The accessory optic system in pigeons: receptive field properties of identified neurons. Brain Res 206:149–154

    Google Scholar 

  • Burns S, Wallmann J (1981) Relation of single unit properties to the oculomotor function of the nucleus of the basal optic root (accesssory optic system) in chickens. Exp Brain Res 42:171–180

    Google Scholar 

  • Clarke PGH (1977) Some visual and other connections to the cerebellum of the pigeon. J Comp Neurol 174:535–552

    Google Scholar 

  • Cremer-Bartels G, Krause K, Küchle HJ (1983) Influence of low magnetic-field-strength variations on the retina and pineal gland of quails and humans. Graefe's Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 220:248–252

    Google Scholar 

  • Eccles JC, Ito M, Szentagothai J (1967) The cerebellum as a neuronal machine. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Emmerton J (1982) Functional morphology of the visual system. In: Abs M (ed) Physiology and behavior of the pigeon. Academic Press, London pp 221–244

    Google Scholar 

  • Harnischfeger G (1979) An improved method for extracellular marking of electrode tips in nervous tissue. J Neurosci Method 1:195–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Karten HJ, Hodos W (1967) A stereotaxic atlas of the brain of the pigeon (Columba livia). John Hopkins Press, Baltimore

    Google Scholar 

  • Karten HJ, Fite KV, Brecha N (1977) Specific projection of displaced retinal ganglion cells upon the accessory optic system in the pigeon (Columba livia). Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 74:1753–1756

    Google Scholar 

  • Kavaliers M, Ossenkopp K-P, Hirst M (1984) Magnetic fields abolish the enhanced nocturnal analgesic response to morphine in mice. Physiol Behav 32:261–264

    Google Scholar 

  • Leask MJM (1977) A physicochemical mechanism for magnetic field detection by migratory birds and homing pigeons. Nature 267:144–145

    Google Scholar 

  • Lövsund P, Nilsson SEG, Öberg PA (1981) Influence on frog retina of alternating magnetic fields with special reference to ganglion cell activity. Med Biol Eng Comput 19:679–685

    Google Scholar 

  • Ossenkopp K-P, Barbeito R (1978) Bird orientation and the geomagnetic field: a review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2:255–270

    Google Scholar 

  • Ossenkopp K-P, Ossenkopp MD (1983) Geophysical variables and behavior: XI. Open-field behaviors in young rats exposed to an ELF rotating magnetic field. Psychol Rep 52:343–349

    Google Scholar 

  • Ossenkopp K-P, Kavaliers M, Hirst M (1983) Reduced nocturnal morphine analgesia in mice following a geomagnetic disturbance. Neurosci Lett 40:321–325

    Google Scholar 

  • Reiner A, Brecha N, Karten HJ (1979) A specific projection of retinal displaced ganglion cells to the nucleus of the basal optic root in the chicken. Neurosci 4:1679–1688

    Google Scholar 

  • Rey J, Gioanni H, Villalobos J (1982) Single unit activity in the nucleus ectomammillaris (nEM) during optokinetic nystagmus in the pigeon. CR Acad Sci Paris 295:41–44

    Google Scholar 

  • Semm P, Demaine C (1983) Electrical responses to direct and indirect photic stimulation of the pineal gland in the pigeon. J Neural Transm 58:281–289

    Google Scholar 

  • Semm P, Schneider T, Vollrath L, Wiltschko W (1982) Magnetic sensitive pineal cells in pigeons. In: Wallraff H, Papi F (eds) Life science: avian navigation. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 329–337

    Google Scholar 

  • Semm P, Nohr D, Demaine C (1984) Photoreceptors are essential components for the detection of magnetic fields in pigeons. Nature (submitted)

  • Wiltschko W (1983) Compasses used by birds. J Comp Biochem Physiol 76:709–717

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R (1972) Magnetic compass of European Robins. Science 176:62–64

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R (1981) Disorientation of unexperienced young pigeons after transportation in total darkness. Nature 291:433–434

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Semm, P., Nohr, D., Demaine, C. et al. Neural basis of the magnetic compass: interactions of visual, magnetic and vestibular inputs in the pigeon's brain. J. Comp. Physiol. 155, 283–288 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00610581

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00610581

Keywords

Navigation