What Does a Pigeon (Columba livia) Brain Look Like During Homing? Selective Examination of ZENK Expression

Document Type


Publication Date



ZENK expression, homing, pigeon brain, gene protein, hippocampal formation

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Lesion studies have shown that the avian hippocampus plays a crucial role in homing pigeon (Columba livia) navigation. Using the expression of the immediate early gene protein ZENK in intact pigeons, the authors found regional variation in hippocampal activation as a consequence of homing and, necessarily, the behavior and internal states that accompany it. Specifically, pigeons that homed displayed a significant increase in the number of ZENK-labeled cells in the lateral hippocampal formation compared with pigeons that did not home, whereas no difference was seen in the medial hippocampus. Significant changes in ZENK expression were also found in the medial striatum, which resembles the mammalian ventral striatum. The results identify portions of the hippocampal formation and the medial striatum as sites of plasticity associated with homing.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Behavioral Neuroscience, v. 118, issue 4, p. 845–851