Casini, Giovanni

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  • Data package
    Data from: GPS-profiling of retrograde navigational impairments associated with hippocampal lesion in homing pigeons
    (2021-06-15) Gagliardo, Anna; Colombo, Silvia; Pollonara, Enrica; Casini, Giovanni; Rossino, Maria Grazia; Wikelski, Martin; Bingman, Verner P.
    The avian hippocampal formation (HF) is homologous to the mammalian hippocampus and plays a central role in the control of spatial cognition. In homing pigeons, HF supports navigation by familiar landmarks and landscape features. However, what has remained relatively unexplored is the importance of HF for the retention of previously acquired spatial information. For example, to date, no systematic GPS-tracking studies on the retention of HF-dependent navigational memory in homing pigeons have been performed. Therefore, the current study was designed to compare the pre- and post-surgical navigational performance of sham-lesioned control and HF-lesioned pigeons tracked from three different sites located in different directions with respect to home. The pre- and post-surgical comparison of the pigeons’ flight paths near the release sites and before reaching the area surrounding the home loft (4 km radius from the loft) revealed that the control and HF-lesioned pigeons displayed similarly successful retention. By contrast, the HF-lesioned pigeons displayed dramatically and consistently impaired retention in navigating to their home loft during the terminal phase of the homing flight near home, i.e., where navigation is supported by memory for landmark and landscape features. The data demonstrate that HF lesions lead to a dramatic loss of pre-surgically acquired landmark and landscape navigational information while sparing those mechanisms associated with navigation from locations distant from home.
  • Data package
    Data from: Unilateral hippocampal lesions and the navigational performance of homing pigeons as revealed by GPS-tracking
    (2022-12-13) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Bingman, Verner P.; Casini, Giovanni
    The left and right hippocampal formation (HF) of the avian brain have been reported to control some different aspects of homing in pigeons. In the current study, we employed GPS-tracking technology and unilateral HF lesions to further explore what if any aspects of a pigeon’s homing flight might be under dominant control by either the left or right HF. Pigeons were released from three locations prior to any experimental manipulation and released repeatedly from the same three sites as sham-lesioned control, right HF-lesioned and left HF-lesioned treatment groups. Analyses of homing performance and virtual vanishing bearings revealed no effect of either lesion treatment. A more in-depth analysis of path efficiency during the initial decision-making, en route and near home phases of a homing flight also revealed no effect of either lesion treatment. A last analysis on the learning and memory for positions along a previously flown route, a proxy for investigating the development of route fidelity, also revealed no effect of either unilateral lesion. However, independent of treatment group, some statistically significant effects were observed with respect to changes in performance across training and the different release sites. The current study revealed no detectable difference between the left and right HF-lesioned pigeons with respect to several navigational parameters of a homing flight. Although in need of supporting experimentation, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that both the left and right HF are similarly able to support several aspects of homing pigeon navigation.
  • Data package
    Data from: GPS tracking technology and re-visiting the relationship between the avian visual wulst and homing pigeon navigation
    (2024-04-02) Cioccarelli, Sara; Giunchi, Dimitri; Pollonara, Enrica; Casini, Giovanni; Bingman, Verner P.; Gagliardo, Anna
    Within their familiar areas homing pigeons rely on familiar visual landscape features and landmarks for homing. However, the neural basis of visual landmark-based navigation has been so far investigated mainly in relation to the role of the hippocampal formation. The avian visual Wulst is the telencephalic projection field of the thalamofugal pathway that has been suggested to be involved in processing lateral visual inputs that originate from the far visual field. The Wulst is therefore a good candidate for a neural structure participating in the visual control of familiar visual landmark-based navigation. We repeatedly released and tracked Wulst-lesioned and control homing pigeons from three sites about 10-15 km from the loft. Wulst lesions did not impair the ability of the pigeons to orient homeward during the first release from each of the three sites nor to localise the loft within the home area. In addition, Wulst-lesioned pigeons displayed unimpaired route fidelity acquisition to a repeated homing path compared to the intact birds. However, compared to control birds, Wulst-lesioned pigeons displayed persistent oscillatory flight patterns across releases, diminished attention to linear (leading lines) landscape features, such as roads and wood edges, and less direct flight paths within the home area. Differences and similarities between the effects of Wulst and hippocampal lesions suggest that although the visual Wulst does not seem to play a direct role in the memory representation of a landscape-landmark map, it does seem to participate in influencing the perceptual construction of such a map.