Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 190, Issue 12, pp 1047–1062 | Cite as

Spatial response properties of homing pigeon hippocampal neurons: correlations with goal locations, movement between goals, and environmental context in a radial-arm arena

  • Gerald E. HoughEmail author
  • Verner P. Bingman
Original Paper


The amniote hippocampal formation plays an evolutionarily-conserved role in the neural representation of environmental space. However, species differences in spatial ecology nurture the expectation of species differences in how hippocampal neurons represent space. To determine the spatial response properties of homing pigeon (Columba livia) HFneurons, we recorded from isolated units in birds freely navigating a radial arena in search of food present at four goal locations. Fifty of 76 neurons displayed firing rate variations that could be placed into three response categories. Location cells (n=25) displayed higher firing rates at restricted locations in the arena space, often in proximity to goal locations. Path cells (n=13) displayed higher firing rates as a pigeon moved between a subset of goal locations. Arena-off cells (n=12) were more active when a pigeon was in a baseline holding space compared to inside the arena. Overall, reliability and coherence scores of the recorded neurons were lower compared to rat place cells. The differences in the spatial response profiles of pigeon hippocampal formation neurons, when compared to rats, provide a departure point for better understanding the relationship between spatial behavior and how hippocampal formation neurons participate in the representation of space.


Avian telencephalon Columba livia Hippocampus Learning and memory Space 



Ammon’s horn area 1


Ammon’s horn area 3


Dorsolateral hippocampal formation


Dorsomedial hippocampal formation


Hippocampal formation


Rate index


Ventral HF


Ventrocentral HF


Ventrolateral HF


Ventromedial HF



The authors thank Meghan Kahn for assistance in all aspects of this study, Doug Nitz for data analysis assistance and contributions to the Matlab programming, and Jennifer J. Siegel for methodological discussions. This study was supported by NSF grant IBN0075891 to V.P.B. All procedures were performed under an approved protocol by BGSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and complied with the Principles of animal care publication no. 86-23, revised 1985 of the National Institutes of Health and also with current US law on the use of vertebrate animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind and BehaviorBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesRowan UniversityGlassboroUSA

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