Hippocampal coding during visually-guided navigation in food-caching birds
Speaker: Hannah Payne
Food-caching birds, such as black-capped chickadees, store many food items across their environment and later retrieve them using hippocampus-dependent memory. Like primates, food-caching birds also depend heavily on vision to navigate. I will first describe our discovery of spatial representations in the avian hippocampus, suggesting a remarkable similarity in hippocampal circuit function between birds and mammals despite 300 million years of independent evolution. These spatial codes were enhanced in food-caching birds compared to a species that does not cache food, indicating that the extent of place coding can vary according to ethological demands. More recently, I have developed a system to estimate gaze in freely moving birds, allowing us to behaviorally dissociate physical location from viewed location. I will present results using this system, which suggest that the hippocampus dynamically coordinates representations of physical and viewed locations during active vision. These studies lay a foundation for future investigation of how mnemonic and perceptual circuits interact to guide behavior more broadly.