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Neural correlates of sensory specializations in birds Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Gutierrez-Ibanez, Cristian
Supervisor and department
Wylie, Douglas R. (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Winship, Ian (Psychiatry)
Sturdy, Christopher B.(Psychology)
Hurd, Peter (Psychology)
Striedter,Gerog (Department Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California at Irvine)
Centre for Neuroscience

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
A basic tenet of comparative studies of the brain is that the larger size of any neural structure is related to the need for progressing more complex or larger quantities of information, the so call Jerison's “principle of proper mass”. Base on this principle, variation of the absolute and relative size of the brain, as well as variation in individual regions, has been correlated with motor, sensory and cognitive specializations. A large amount of these comparative studies have been focused on birds. Birds have become powerful models in many aspects of neurobiology as they display a large diversity of sensory, behavioural, motor and cognitive specializations. This provides the perfect opportunity to study changes in the brain related to these specializations. This dissertation seeks to further advance our understanding of the principles that govern brain evolution using birds as a model. We performed five studies on the variation of cytoarchitectonic organization, relative volume and cell numbers in different sensory nuclei in birds. We found differences in the relative size of somatosensory, auditory and visual nuclei among birds. We show the independent enlargement of a somatosensory nucleus in three groups of birds related to different feeding behaviors. Our results also show variation in the relative size of nuclei that belong to parallel visual and auditory pathways within owls (Strigiforms). Additionally, we performed a comparison of the cytoarchitectonic organization, size and cell numbers in the isthmo optic nucleus in a large sample of birds which throws new light on the function of the projection from the isthmo optic nucleus to the retina. Lastly, we use a combination of phylogenetically corrected principal component analysis and evolutionary rates of change to show that the relative size of 9 visual nuclei evolve in a combination of concerted and mosaic manner. The current dissertation adds greatly to our knowledge of the forces that drive differences in morphology and cytoarchitecture of the brain between different species.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Gutiérrez-Ibáñez C, Iwaniuk AN, Wylie DRW (2009): The independent evolution of the enlargement of the principal sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve (PrV) in three different groups of birds. Brain, Behav and Evol 74:280–294.Gutiérrez-Ibáñez C, Iwaniuk AN, Wylie DR (2011): Relative size of auditory pathways in symmetrically and asymmetrically-eared owls.Brain Behav Evol 78:286–301.Gutiérrez-Ibáñez C, Iwaniuk AN, Lisney TJ, Wylie DR. (2013): Comparative study of visual pathways in owls (Aves:Strigiformes). Brain behav evol 81:27-39.Gutiérrez-Ibáñez C, Iwaniuk AN, Lisney TJ, Faunes M, Marín G, and Wylie DR (2012): Functional Implications of Species Differences in the Size and Morphology of the Isthmo Optic Nucleus (ION) in Birds PLoS ONE 7(5): e37816. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037816.

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