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Neuron. 2015 Jun 17;86(6):1330-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.04.024.

Avian Models for Human Cognitive Neuroscience: A Proposal.

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Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK. Electronic address:
Biological & Experimental Psychology Group, School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London E1 4NS, UK. Electronic address:


Research on avian cognitive neuroscience over the past two decades has revealed the avian brain to be a better model for understanding human cognition than previously thought, despite differences in the neuroarchitecture of avian and mammalian brains. The brain, behavior, and cognition of songbirds have provided an excellent model of human cognition in one domain, namely learning human language and the production of speech. There are other important behavioral candidates of avian cognition, however, notably the capacity of corvids to remember the past and plan for the future, as well as their ability to think about another's perspective, and physical reasoning. We review this work and assess the evidence that the corvid brain can support such a cognitive architecture. We propose potential applications of these behavioral paradigms for cognitive neuroscience, including recent work on single-cell recordings and neuroimaging in corvids. Finally, we discuss their impact on understanding human developmental cognition.

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