Their ways of intelligence: cases of insects and pigeons
24 November, 2016 (16:00-18:00)
Yutaka Kosaki (Keio University)
Toshiya Matsushima (Hokkaido University)
According to Darwin, the differences between humans and nonhuman are one of degree and not kind. Therefore, by applying Darwin’s evolutionary framework, we can gain an insight into human behavior by studying the behavior of non-human animals. But what animals and what mechanisms should we study? In the current symposium we will focus on the possible commonality of underlying processes in two species, both dramatically different from humans. In the first talk by Dr Mizunami, we will see that the Rescorla-Wagner model is applicable in taxonomically distant animals such as insects, whose micro-brain has a completely different architecture to the human brain. In the second talk by Dr Colombo, we will find that cognitive operations such as numerical competence are present in the brain of birds, who also achieved encephalization in a manner very distinct from mammals. We will enjoy the fruits of mechanism-conscious evolutionary approaches successfully adopted in these studies.
◆This is the joint symposium between JSAP and Research and Education Center for Brain Science, Hokkaido university. This symposium was supported by Research and Education Center for Brain Science, Hokkaido university and JSPS KAKENHI (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) 25291071).
Lecture 1: Searching for cognitive processes involved in insect learning
- Speaker Profile:
- Makoto Mizunami
Department of Biology
Insects possess very small brains called “microbrains” but they exhibit many sophisticated behaviors. Elucidation of neural mechanisms of learning in insects and their comparison with those in mammals should help deepening our understanding of evolution of brain and behavior. Our studies on Pavlovian conditioning in crickets suggested that octopamine (OA) neurons and dopamine (DA) neurons convey reinforcing signals of appetitive and aversive unconditioned stimulus (US), respectively. Our study also suggested that activation of OA or DA neurons is needed for appetitive or aversive memory retrieval, respectively. This observation could be accounted for by a model assuming that two types of synapses, each representing stimulus-response (CS-R) connection or stimulus-stimulus (CS-US) connection, are strengthened by conditioning and that activation of both connections is needed for memory retrieval. Finally, we suggested that Pavlovian conditioning in crickets is determined by the prediction error, i.e., the discrepancy between the actual and predicted US, as is suggested in mammals. OA and DA neurons appear to mediate reward and punishment prediction errors, respectively. We conclude that insect Pavlovian conditioning is based on sophisticated information processing that shares many features with those in mammals, suggesting evolutionary convergence of basic brain functions between mammals and insects.
Lecture 2: Wither the primate pedestal
- Speaker Profile:
- Michael Colombo
Department of Psychology
Dunedin, New Zealand
For years primates have been viewed as representing the pinnacle of cognitive behaviour. They posses insight, self-recognition, and linguistic and conceptual abilities that few if any nonprimates can match. A number of years ago B.F. Skinner and Robert Epstein embarked on their now famous Columban Simulation Project where they showed that with proper training pigeons could exhibit complex behaviours similar to those of monkeys and apes. Although intriguing, the studies tended to dismissed as mere examples of trained behaviour, and that pigeons lacked the flexibility of behaviour that characterizes primate cognition. In this talk I will review a number of studies that support the view that pigeons are on par with primates not only in their numerical abilities but in all “cognitive” abilities that have been tested in nonhuman primates thus far, and that they are well-perched to inform us about the operation of the primate mind.