Spatial coding in the hippocampus and hyperpallium of flying owls

Published: 22 December 2022| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/2dj4z7x2tx.2
Arpit Agarwal,


This data set contains spike trains and position data of single units recorded from freely behaving and flying barn-owls, and additional data about each unit. The work in-which this data-set was collected and analysed is published in Agarwal et al., Spatial coding in the hippocampus and hyperpallium of flying owls. PNAS (2022). In-press. The study is summarized below: The elucidation of spatial coding in the hippocampus requires exploring diverse animal species. While robust place-cells are found in the mammalian hippocampus, much less is known about spatial coding in the hippocampus of birds. Here we used a wireless-electrophysiology system to record single neurons in the hippocampus and other two dorsal pallial structures from freely flying barn owls (Tyto alba), a central-place nocturnal predator species with excellent navigational abilities. The owl’s 3D position was monitored while it flew between perches. We found place cells – neurons that fired when the owl flew through a spatially restricted region in at least one direction – as well as neurons that encoded the direction of flight, and neurons that represented the owl's perching position between flights. Many neurons encoded combinations of position, direction, and perching. Spatial coding was maintained stable and invariant to lighting conditions. Place cells were observed in owls performing two different types of flying tasks, highlighting the generality of the result. Place coding was found in the anterior hippocampus and in the posterior part of the hyperpallium apicale, and to a lesser extent in the visual Wulst. The finding of place-cells in flying owls suggests commonalities in spatial coding across mammals and birds.



Technion Israel Institute of Technology


Animal Neuroethology, Hippocampus, Spatial Cognition, Avian Species