University of Oulu

Lange, H., Walker, L., Orell, M. et al. Seasonal changes in the hippocampal formation of hoarding and non-hoarding tits. Learn Behav 50, 113–124 (2022).

Seasonal changes in the hippocampal formation of hoarding and non-hoarding tits

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Author: Lange, Henrik1,2; Walker, Lauren1,3; Orell, Markku4;
Organizations: 1Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
2Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Stockholm, Sweden
3Translational and Clinical Research Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
4Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Biosciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-03-02


The hippocampal formation (HF) processes spatial memories for cache locations in food-hoarding birds. Hoarding is a seasonal behavior, and seasonal changes in the HF have been described in some studies, but not in others. One potential reason is that birds may have been sampled during the seasonal hoarding peak in some studies, but not in others. In this study, we investigate the seasonal changes in hoarding and HF in willow tits (Poecile montanus). We compare this to seasonal changes in HF in a closely related non-hoarding bird, the great tit (Parus major). Willow tits near Oulu, Finland, show a seasonal hoarding peak in September and both HF volume and neuron number show a similar peak. HF neuronal density also increases in September, but then remains the same throughout winter. Unexpectedly, the great tit HF also changes seasonally, although in a different pattern: the great tit telencephalon increases in volume from July to August and decreases again in November. Great tit HF volume follows suit, but with a delay. Great tit HF neuron number and density also increase from August to September and stay high throughout winter. We hypothesize that seasonal changes in hoarding birds’ HF are driven by food-hoarding experience (e.g., the formation of thousands of memories). The seasonal changes in great tit brains may also be due to experience-dependent plasticity, responding to changes in the social and spatial environment. Large-scale experience-dependent neural plasticity is therefore probably not an adaptation of food-hoarding birds, but a general property of the avian HF and telencephalon.

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Series: Learning & behavior
ISSN: 1543-4494
ISSN-E: 1543-4508
ISSN-L: 1543-4494
Volume: 50
Pages: 113 - 124
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-021-00481-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC grant BB/C006186/1 to TVS).
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit