Show Reference: "Hunting Increases Adaptive Auditory Map Plasticity in Adult Barn Owls"

Hunting Increases Adaptive Auditory Map Plasticity in Adult Barn Owls The Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 25, No. 42. (19 October 2005), pp. 9816-9820 by Joseph F. Bergan, Peter Ro, Daniel Ro, Eric I. Knudsen
    abstract = {The optic tectum ({OT}) of barn owls contains topographic maps of auditory and visual space. Barn owls reared with horizontally displacing prismatic spectacles (prisms) acquire a novel auditory space map in the {OT} that restores alignment with the prismatically displaced visual map. Although juvenile owls readily acquire alternative maps of auditory space as a result of experience, this plasticity is reduced greatly in adults. We tested whether hunting live prey, a natural and critically important behavior for barn owls, increases auditory map plasticity in adult owls. Two groups of naive adult owls were fit with prisms. The first group was fed dead mice during 10 weeks of prism experience, while the second group was required to hunt live prey for an identical period of time. When the owls hunted live prey, auditory maps shifted substantially farther (five times farther, on average) and the consistency of tuning curve shifts within each map increased. Only a short period of time in each day, during which the two groups experienced different conditions, accounts for this effect. In addition, increased map plasticity correlated with behavioral improvements in the owls' ability to strike and capture prey. These results indicate that the experience of hunting dramatically increases adult adaptive plasticity in this pathway.},
    author = {Bergan, Joseph F. and Ro, Peter and Ro, Daniel and Knudsen, Eric I.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13326884},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {},
    citeulike-linkout-1 = {},
    day = {19},
    issn = {1529-2401},
    journal = {The Journal of Neuroscience},
    keywords = {biology, learning, sc, topographic-maps},
    month = oct,
    number = {42},
    pages = {9816--9820},
    pmid = {16237185},
    posted-at = {2014-08-15 10:00:52},
    priority = {2},
    title = {Hunting Increases Adaptive Auditory Map Plasticity in Adult Barn Owls},
    url = {},
    volume = {25},
    year = {2005}

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Fitting barn owls with prisms which induce a shift in where the owls see objects in their environment leads to a shift of the map of auditory space in the optic tectum.

The shift in the auditory space map in the optic tectum of owls whose visual perception was shifted by prisms is much stronger in juvenile than in mature owls.

Letting adult owls with shifted visual spatial perception hunt mice increases the amount by which the auditory space map in the owls' optic tectum is shifted (as compared to feeding them only dead mice).

Bergan et al. offer four factors which might explain the increase in shift of the auditory space maps in owls with shifted visual spatial perception:

  • Hunting represents a task in which accurate map alignment is important (owls which do not hunt presumably do not face such tasks),
  • more cross-modal experience (visual and auditory stimuli from the mice),
  • cross-modal experiences in phases of increased attention and arousal,
  • increased importance of accurate map alignment (important for feeding).

If increased importance of accurate map alignment is what causes stronger map alignment in the optic tectum of owls that hunt than in those of owls that do not hunt (with visually displacing prisms), then that could point either

  • to value-based learning in the OT
  • or to a role of cognitive input to the OT (hunting owls pay more attention/are more interested in audio-visual stimuli than resting or feeding owls).