According to a recent scientific study, Pigeons aren’t that bird-brained after all. Researchers have found that Pigeons are able to discern space and time.
Researchers have recently found that pigeons can discriminate abstract concepts of both space and time, and are believed to use a different region of the brain than humans and primates to do so.
According to a research conducted at the University of Iowa, pigeons were placed before a computer screen that displayed a static horizontal line and had to judge their length or the amount of time that was visible to them.
As explained by scientists: “Pigeons judged longer lines to also have longer duration and judged lines longer in duration to also be longer in length.”
That means, says Edward Wasserman, professor of Experimental Psychology, is that pigeons use a prevalent area of the brain to judge space and time, which means that these abstract concepts are not processed independently.
Similar results have been found with humans and other primates.
Experts note how this discovery adds to the growing acceptance in the scientific community that lower-order animal species, like birds, reptiles, and fish, are capable of making high-level abstract decisions.
“Indeed, the cognitive prowess of birds is now deemed to be ever closer to that of both human and nonhuman primates,” says Wasserman, who has studied intelligence in pigeons, crows, baboons, and other animals for more than four decades.
“Those avian nervous systems are capable of far greater achievements than the pejorative term ‘bird brain’ would suggest.”
Experts explain that human beings are capable of perceiving space and time, even without the help of tools such as a clock or a ruler.
The region of the brain that helps humans make solid abstract concepts is the parietal cortex, part of the cerebral cortex and the outermost layer of the brain.
It is understood that the cerebral cortex is a place of higher thought processes, which includes speech and decision making, and the four lobes that comprise it, including the parietal cortex, process different types of sensory information.
However, pigeons are different.
They do not possess a parietal cortex or at least one that is sufficiently developed to be distinct.
Therefore, birds—pigeons—must make use of other areas of the brain in order to discriminate between space and time, or a common evolutionary mechanism in the central nervous system shared by early primates and birds could also exist, note researchers.
Source: University of Iowa