Smart animals; pigeons recognize time and space (Animals)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 05, 2017, 00:48 (10 days ago) @ David Turell

Pigeons can understand the concepts of space and time:

https://phys.org/news/2017-12-pigeons-discriminate-space.html

"New research at the University of Iowa shows that pigeons can discriminate the abstract concepts of space and time—and seem to use a different region of the brain than humans and primates to do so. In experiments, pigeons were shown on a computer screen a static horizontal line and had to judge its length or the amount of time it was visible to them. Pigeons judged longer lines to also have longer duration and judged lines longer in duration to also be longer in length.

"What that means, says Edward Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the UI, is pigeons use a common area of the brain to judge space and time, suggesting that these abstract concepts are not processed separately. Similar results have been found with humans and other primates.

***

"'Indeed, the cognitive prowess of birds is now deemed to be ever closer to that of both human and nonhuman primates," says Wasserman, who has studied intelligence in pigeons, crows, baboons, and other animals for more than four decades. "Those avian nervous systems are capable of far greater achievements than the pejorative term 'bird brain' would suggest."

"Humans are able to perceive space and time, even without the aid of inventions such as a watch or a ruler. The region of the brain that helps humans make those abstract concepts more tangible is the parietal cortex, part of the cerebral cortex and the outermost layer of the brain. The cerebral cortex is known to be a locus of higher thought processes, including speech and decision-making, and the four lobes that comprise it, including the parietal cortex, process different types of sensory information.

"But the pigeon brain doesn't have a parietal cortex, or at least one developed enough to be distinct. So, the birds must employ another area of the brain to discriminate between space and time—or perhaps there's a common evolutionary mechanism in the central nervous system shared by early primates and birds.

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"The researchers found that the length of the line affected the pigeons' discrimination of line duration, and the duration of the line affected the pigeons' discrimination of line length. This interplay of space and time paralleled research done with humans and monkeys and revealed the common neural coding of these two physical dimensions. Researchers previously believed that the parietal cortex was the locus of this interplay. However, because pigeons lack an apparent parietal cortex, Wasserman's findings suggest this isn't always the case."

Comment: Even simple brains are very complex and what they can produce at the animal level is truly amazing, but it also tells us how the human brain is able to pack in so many more activities at the same time


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