Transitive behavior in hippocampal-lesioned pigeons

Rosemary Strasser, Joyce M. Ehrlinger, Verner P. Bingman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The hippocampus of birds and mammals is critical for the learning of map-like memory representations of environmental space. It has been suggested that the hippocampus of rats also participates in non-spatial relational learning, including the learning of non-spatial transitive relationships among odor stimuli [Bunsey and Eichenbaum, Nature 1996]. Although transitive-like learning has been demonstrated in a variety of vertebrate species, from a comparative perspective the role of the hippocampus in this form of learning has not been tested in other amniote groups. We trained control and hippocampal-lesioned homing pigeons on a series of visual, nonspatial, go/no-go conditional discriminations and then tested them on novel transitivity probe trials. The hippocampal-lesioned pigeons were as successful as control pigeons in responding appropriately to correct and incorrect transitivity pairs. The finding that the homing pigeon hippocampal formation is not necessary for solving this serial, conditional discrimination task is important for further understanding hippocampal function across species, and represents one of the few studies that have attempted to localize a brain region responsible for the phenomenon of transitive behavior learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-188
Number of pages8
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Birds
  • Conditional discrimination
  • Hippocampus
  • Non-spatial learning
  • Pigeon
  • Transitive inference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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