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Animal ThinkingContemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition$
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Randolf Menzel and Julia Fischer

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016636

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016636.001.0001

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Making the Case for the Intelligence of Avian Navigation

Making the Case for the Intelligence of Avian Navigation

(p.39) 4 Making the Case for the Intelligence of Avian Navigation
Animal Thinking

Verner P. Bingman

The MIT Press

Communication, social cognition, and the ability to solve problems are generally considered hallmarks of animal intelligence. The seemingly routine navigational behavior of birds, reflected in their ability to return to remote goal locations even when displaced to distant, unfamiliar places, seems to suggest a similarly remarkable ability. Why, then, is navigation only rarely discussed together with more traditional examples of intelligence? Two factors have nurtured this neglect: navigation can be understood as a purely computational process through which a simple algorithm can lead to goal-directed behavior, and there is uncertainty about whether the underlying neural organization of navigation has the same quality of a freely associating, distributed network, which would characterize mammalian prefrontal cortex and possibly the avian nidopallium. However, the experimental demonstration that the hippocampus is central for homing pigeons to carry out memory-based, corrective reorientation following a navigational error, and the occurrence of hippocampal path cells, which display prospective-like response properties suggesting their participation in representing future navigational outcomes, combine to show that at least hippocampal-dependent aspects of navigation rise to the level of traditional examples of animal intelligence.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, avian navigation, homing pigeons, animal intelligence, hippocampus, avian nidopallium, computational gradient map, path cells

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