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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jun 7;102(23):8339-44. Epub 2005 May 31.

Night-vision brain area in migratory songbirds.

Author information

1
Volkswagen Nachwuchsgruppe Animal Navigation, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany. henrik.mouritsen@uni-oldenburg.de

Abstract

Twice each year, millions of night-migratory songbirds migrate thousands of kilometers. To find their way, they must process and integrate spatiotemporal information from a variety of cues including the Earth's magnetic field and the night-time starry sky. By using sensory-driven gene expression, we discovered that night-migratory songbirds possess a tight cluster of brain regions highly active only during night vision. This cluster, here named "cluster N," is located at the dorsal surface of the brain and is adjacent to a known visual pathway. In contrast, neuronal activation of cluster N was not increased in nonmigratory birds during the night, and it disappeared in migrants when both eyes were covered. We suggest that in night-migratory songbirds cluster N is involved in enhanced night vision, and that it could be integrating vision-mediated magnetic and/or star compass information for night-time navigation. Our findings thus represent an anatomical and functional demonstration of a specific night-vision brain area.

PMID:
15928090
PMCID:
PMC1149410
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0409575102
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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