Zebra finches and cognition

Susan D. Healy, Olivia Haggis, Nicola S. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In spite of attracting significant attention as a model for song learning, sexual imprinting and mate-choice, there has been surprisingly little research on the general cognitive abilities of Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata), from spatial memory and social learning to more complex tests of social cognition such as Theory of Mind. This is perhaps surprising given the logistical benefits of the species: they are fairly cheap to house and easy to maintain in the laboratory, and they can be readily bought or bred on demand and consequently large sample sizes are readily achievable. The explanation probably lies with the model market for cognition already being fully occupied by rats and pigeons, with decades of research into learning and memory in these species, whereas tests of more complex cognition have traditionally been conducted on primates and more recently extended to corvids, pigs and dogs. Although it is not clear whether Zebra Finches are going to be useful for examining the role of cognition in mate-choice, this species does seem to be a good choice for some tests of cognitive abilities, particularly given the existing neurobiological tools for examining the neural correlates of song learning and sexual imprinting in this species, and that much is already known about the neuroanatomy and connectivity of the Zebra Finch brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-250
Number of pages9
JournalEmu - Austral Ornithology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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