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PLoS Biol. 2005 Jun;3(6):e190. Epub 2005 May 10.

Neural correlates of executive control in the avian brain.

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Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Executive control, the ability to plan one's behaviour to achieve a goal, is a hallmark of frontal lobe function in humans and other primates. In the current study we report neural correlates of executive control in the avian nidopallium caudolaterale, a region analogous to the mammalian prefrontal cortex. Homing pigeons (Columba livia) performed a working memory task in which cues instructed them whether stimuli should be remembered or forgotten. When instructed to remember, many neurons showed sustained activation throughout the memory period. When instructed to forget, the sustained activation was abolished. Consistent with the neural data, the behavioural data showed that memory performance was high after instructions to remember, and dropped to chance after instructions to forget. Our findings indicate that neurons in the avian nidopallium caudolaterale participate in one of the core forms of executive control, the control of what should be remembered and what should be forgotten. This form of executive control is fundamental not only to working memory, but also to all cognition.

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