The avian 'prefrontal cortex' and cognition

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Dec;15(6):686-93. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2005.10.003. Epub 2005 Nov 2.


Both mammals and birds can flexibly organize their behavior over time. In mammals, the mental operations generating this ability are called executive functions and are associated with the prefrontal cortex. The corresponding structure in birds is the nidopallium caudolaterale. Anatomical, neurochemical, electrophysiological and behavioral studies show these structures to be highly similar. The avian forebrain displays no lamination that corresponds to the mammalian neocortex, hence lamination does not seem to be a requirement for higher cognitive functions. Because all other aspects of the neural architecture of the mammalian and the avian prefrontal areas are extremely comparable, the freedom to create different neural architectures that generate prefrontal functions seems to be very limited.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*


  • Dopamine