The Mind Through Chick Eyes: Memory, Cognition and Anticipation

Zoolog Sci. 2003 Apr;20(4):395-408. doi: 10.2108/zsj.20.395.


To understand the animal mind, we have to reconstruct how animals recognize the external world through their own eyes. For the reconstruction to be realistic, explanations must be made both in their proximate causes (brain mechanisms) as well as ultimate causes (evolutionary backgrounds). Here, we review recent advances in the behavioral, psychological, and system-neuroscience studies accomplished using the domestic chick as subjects. Diverse behavioral paradigms are compared (such as filial imprinting, sexual imprinting, one-trial passive avoidance learning, and reinforcement operant conditioning) in their behavioral characterizations (development, sensory and motor aspects of functions, fitness gains) and relevant brain mechanisms. We will stress that common brain regions are shared by these distinct paradigms, particularly those in the ventral telencephalic structures such as AIv (in the archistriatum) and LPO (in the medial striatum). Neuronal ensembles in these regions could code the chick's anticipation for forthcoming events, particularly the quality/quantity and the temporal proximity of rewards. Without the internal representation of the anticipated proximity in LPO, behavioral tolerance will be lost, and the chick makes impulsive choice for a less optimized option. Functional roles of these regions proved compatible with their anatomical counterparts in the mammalian brain, thus suggesting that the neural systems linking between the memorized past and the anticipated future have remained highly conservative through the evolution of the amniotic vertebrates during the last 300 million years. With the conservative nature in mind, research efforts should be oriented toward a unifying theory, which could explain behavioral deviations from optimized foraging, such as "naïve curiosity," "contra-freeloading," "Concorde fallacy," and "altruism."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / anatomy & histology
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology