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- Data packageData from: Evidence for pre-mnemonic, perceptual neglect of environmental features in hippocampal lesioned pigeons during homing(2014-07-31) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Coppola, Vincent J; Santos, Carlos D; Bingman, Verner PThe importance of the vertebrate hippocampus in spatial cognition is often related to its broad role in memory. However, in birds, the hippocampus appears to be more specifically involved in spatial processes. The maturing of GPS-tracking technology has enabled a revolution in navigation research, including the expanded possibility of studying brain mechanisms that guide navigation in the field. By GPS-tracking homing pigeons released from distant, unfamiliar sites prior to and after hippocampal lesion, we observed, as has been reported previously, impaired navigational performance postlesion over the familiar/memorized space near the home loft, where topographic features constitute an important source of navigational information. The GPS-tracking revealed that many of the lost pigeons, when lesioned, approached the home area, but nevertheless failed to locate their loft. Unexpectedly, when they were hippocampal-lesioned, the pigeons showed a notable change in their behaviour when navigating over the unfamiliar space distant from home; they actually flew straighter homeward-directed paths than they did prelesion. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that, following hippocampal lesion, homing pigeons respond less to unfamiliar visual, topographic features encountered during homing, and, as such, offer the first evidence for an unforeseen, perceptual neglect of environmental features following hippocampal damage.
- Data packageData from: Importance of the hippocampus for the learning of route fidelity in homing pigeons(2020-09-29) Wikelski, Martin; Gagliardo, Anna; Bingman, Verner P.The avian hippocampal formation (HF) is thought to regulate map-like memory representations of visual landmarks/landscape features and has more recently been suggested to be similarly important for the perceptual integration of landmarks/landscapes. Aspects of spatial memory and perception likely combine to support the now well-documented ability of homing pigeons to learn to retrace the same route when homing from familiar locations, leading to the prediction that damage to the HF would result in a diminished ability to repeatedly fly a similar route home. HF-lesioned homing pigeons were repeatedly released from three sites to assess the importance of the hippocampus as pigeons gradually learn a familiar route home guided by familiar landmark and landscape features. As expected, control pigeons displayed increasing fidelity to a familiar route home, and by inference, successful perceptual and memory processing of familiar landmarks/landscape features. By contrast, the impoverished route fidelity of the HF-lesioned pigeons indicated an impaired sensitivity to the same landmark/landscape features.
- Data packageData from: Only natural local odours allow homeward orientation in homing pigeons released at unfamiliar sites(2018-08-30) Gagliardo, Anna; Pollonara, Enrica; Wikelski, MartinAccording to the olfactory navigation hypothesis, birds are able to exploit the spatial distribution of environmental odourants to determine the direction of displacement and navigate from non-familiar locations. The so-called “olfactory activation hypothesis” challenged the specific role of olfactory cues in navigation by suggesting that olfactory stimuli only activate a navigational system that is based on non-olfactory cues, predicting that even artificial odourants alone are sufficient to allow unimpaired navigation. In this experiment, we compared tracks of experimental birds exposed to different olfactory stimuli before being made anosmic at the release site prior to release. One group of pigeons was exposed to purified air enriched with artificial odourants, while a second group was exposed to environmental air. The birds stimulated with artificial nonsense odourants displayed several behavioural differences from both untreated controls and anosmic pigeons exposed to environmental air prior to release: nonsense odourants birds were unable to determine the home direction, they mostly flew within a space outside the homeward oriented quadrant, and they flew shorter distances on the day of release. Our data failed to support a mere activational role of olfactory stimuli in navigation, and are consistent with the olfactory navigation hypothesis.
- Data packageData from: Right hemisphere advantage in the development of route fidelity in homing pigeons(2017-01-02) Pollonara, Enrica; Guilford, Tim; Rossi, Marta; Bingman, Verner P.; Gagliardo, AnnaNOTE: A corrected version of this dataset is available. See doi:10.5441/001/1.73h2s043. ABSTRACT: Several laboratory studies have revealed functional hemispheric lateralization in birds performing visual tasks. However, the role of functional brain asymmetries in spatial behaviour in natural settings is still poorly investigated. We studied monocularly occluded homing pigeons, Columba livia, to investigate potential differences in the hemispheric control of navigational performance. We GPS-tracked monocularly occluded and control binocular homing pigeons during seven group training releases and a final solitary release from each of two sites. The pigeons were then given one last release from each site after a phase shift of the light-dark cycle under binocular conditions, to distinguish compass-based orientation from landmark-based pilotage. Overall, pigeons homing with the left eye/right hemisphere (RH) displayed a greater fidelity to the familiar space previously experienced than pigeons homing with the right eye/left hemisphere (LH). Another difference between the two monocular groups is that LH pigeons were more likely than RH pigeons to fly with other pigeons during the group training releases. The data support the hypothesis that the left eye/right hemisphere plays a more substantial role as pigeons develop fidelity to certain routes to home from familiar release sites, an enhanced fidelity that may be supported by superior memory for familiar landmarks.
- Data packageData 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 packageData from: Right hemisphere advantage in the development of route fidelity in homing pigeons(2017-08-01) Pollonara, Enrica; Guilford, Tim; Rossi, Marta; Bingman, Verner P.; Gagliardo, AnnaSeveral laboratory studies have revealed functional hemispheric lateralization in birds performing visual tasks. However, the role of functional brain asymmetries in spatial behaviour in natural settings is still poorly investigated. We studied monocularly occluded homing pigeons, Columba livia, to investigate potential differences in the hemispheric control of navigational performance. We GPS-tracked monocularly occluded and control binocular homing pigeons during seven group training releases and a final solitary release from each of two sites. The pigeons were then given one last release from each site after a phase shift of the light-dark cycle under binocular conditions, to distinguish compass-based orientation from landmark-based pilotage. Overall, pigeons homing with the left eye/right hemisphere (RH) displayed a greater fidelity to the familiar space previously experienced than pigeons homing with the right eye/left hemisphere (LH). Another difference between the two monocular groups is that LH pigeons were more likely than RH pigeons to fly with other pigeons during the group training releases. The data support the hypothesis that the left eye/right hemisphere plays a more substantial role as pigeons develop fidelity to certain routes to home from familiar release sites, an enhanced fidelity that may be supported by superior memory for familiar landmarks.
- Data packageData from: Behavioural traits of individual homing pigeons, Columba livia f. domestica, in their homing flights(2018-10-03) Schiffner, Ingo; Wiltschko, Wolfgang; Wiltschko, RoswithaHoming tracks of two groups of pigeons, Columba livia f. domestica, were analyzed in view of difference between individual birds and correlations between characteristic variables, looking at the initial phase while the pigeons were still at the release site, and the homing phase separately. Individual birds differed significantly in their flying speed during the initial phase, and one pigeon tended to stay longer at the release site than the others. There were no significant differences in steadiness and efficiency, indicating that all pigeons homed equally well. Differences in correlation dimension, a variable reflecting the complexity of the navigational process, reflect differences in the use of navigational information, with one bird apparently using less complex information than others. The flying speed during the initial phase was positively correlated with the flying speed during the homing phase. During the homing phase, the steadiness of flight and the efficiency of homing were closely correlated, and both tended to be positively correlated with the correlation dimension, suggesting that birds that use more complex navigational information home more efficiently.
- Data packageData 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, GiovanniThe 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 packageData from: Deconstructing the flight paths of hippocampal-lesioned homing pigeons as they navigate near home offers insight into spatial perception and memory without a hippocampus(2022-08-30) Gagliardo, Anna; Cioccarelli, Sara; Giunchi, Dimitri; Pollonara, Enrica; Colombo, Silvia; Casini, Giovanni; Bingman, Verner P.The aim of this study was to exploit detailed analyses of GPS-recorded tracks to better characterise the impact of hippocampal (HF) lesion on spatial memory and perception in the context of homing pigeon navigation when reliant on familiar landscape features near the home loft following repeated releases from the same three locations. As reported previously, following HF lesion, a low spatio-temporal resolution analysis revealed that homing pigeons fly less direct paths home once near the loft. We now further show that 1) HF-lesioned pigeons are less likely to display fidelity to a particular flight path home when released from the same locations multiple times, 2) intact pigeons are more likely to exploit leading-line landscape features, e.g., a road or the border of a woodlot, in developing flight-path fidelity and 3) even when flying a straight path HF-lesioned homing pigeons are more likely to display relatively rapid, oscillatory heading changes as if casting about for sensory, presumably visual information. The flight behaviour differences between the intact and HF-lesioned pigeons persisted across the four releases from the three locations, although the differences became smaller with increasing experience. Taken together, the GPS-track data offer a detailed characterisation of the effects of HF lesion on landscape-based, homing pigeon navigation, offering new insight into the role of the hippocampal formation in supporting memory-related, e.g., fidelity to a familiar route home, and perhaps perceptual-related, e.g., oscillating headings, navigational processes.
- Data packageData from: Homing pigeons only navigate in air with intact environmental odours: a test of the olfactory activation hypothesis with GPS data loggers [partial dataset](2012-03-29) Gagliardo, Anna; Ioalè, Paolo; Filannino, Caterina; Wikelski, MartinNOTE: A corrected version of this dataset is available. See doi:10.5441/001/1.2sr7mm39. ABSTRACT: A large body of evidence has shown that anosmic pigeons are impaired in their navigation. However, the role of odours in navigation is still subject to debate. While according to the olfactory navigation hypothesis homing pigeons possess a navigational map based on the distribution of environmental odours, the olfactory activation hypothesis proposes that odour perception is only needed to activate a navigational mechanism based on cues of another nature. Here we tested experimentally whether the perception of artificial odours is sufficient to allow pigeons to navigate, as expected from the olfactory activation hypothesis. We transported three groups of pigeons in air-tight containers to release sites 53 and 61 km from home in three different olfactory conditions. The Control group received natural environmental air; both the Pure Air and the Artificial Odour groups received pure air filtered through an active charcoal filter. Only the Artificial Odour group received additional puffs of artificial odours until release. We then released pigeons while recording their tracks with 1 Hz GPS data loggers. We also followed non-homing pigeons using an aerial data readout to a Cessna plane, allowing, for the first time, the tracking of non-homing homing pigeons. Within the first hour after release, the pigeons in both the Artificial Odour and the Pure Air group (receiving no environmental odours) showed impaired navigational performances at each release site. Our data provide evidence against an activation role of odours in navigation, and document that pigeons only navigate well when they perceive environmental odours.