Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Psychology

Supervisor(s)

Dr. David F. Sherry

Abstract

Two cognitive adaptations were studied in Black-capped chickadees through tests of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and Win-shift/Win-stay spatial search. Neurogenesis has been proposed to aid memory, therefore it was hypothesized that birds with decreased neurogenesis would perform poorer than controls in hippocampal-dependent spatial working and reference memory tasks followed by a reversal. Subjects with decreased neurogenesis, caused by the neurotoxin MAM, reversed slower than controls, suggesting that neurogenesis may contribute to differentiating similar memories, although this effect was nonsignificant. Win-shift/Win-stay foraging behavior is an adaptation to the replenishing and depleting nature of food. Since chickadees forage on food that depletes quickly and slowly, it was hypothesized that chickadees would change their foraging strategy in response to reward contingency in a spatial working memory task. I found that chickadees did not respond to reward contingency and instead relied on individual preferences. Sweeping general models do not always apply to complex foraging birds.


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