The ability to associate stimuli across time and sensory modalities endows animals and humans with many of the complex, learned behaviors. For successful performance, associations need to be retrieved from long-term memory and maintained active in working memory. We investigated how this is accomplished in the avian brain. We trained carrion crows (Corvus corone) to perform a bimodal delayed paired associate task in which the crows had to match auditory stimuli to delayed visual items. Single-unit recordings from the association area nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) revealed sustained memory signals that selectively correlated with the learned audio-visual associations across time and modality, and sustained activity prospectively encoded the crows' choices. NCL neurons carried an internal, stimulus-independent signal that was predictive of error and type of error. These results underscore the role of corvid NCL in synthesizing external multisensory information and internal mnemonic data needed for executive control of behavior.
Keywords: NCL; associations; audio-visual; bird; carrion crow; cross-modal; internal signal; working memory.
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