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Neural Plasticity
Volume 10 (2003), Issue 4, Pages 247-266

Operant Discriminative Learning and Evidence of Subtelencephalic Plastic Changes After Long-Term Detelencephalation in Pigeons

1Laboratório de Sistemas Neurais e Comportamento, Departamento de Fisiologia e Biofisica, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, UNICAMP, Brazil
2Instituto de Neurobiologia, Departamento de Neurobiologia Del Desarrollo Y Neurofisiologia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico
3Laboratório de Plasticidade Neural -Programa de Pós-Graduandos em, Ciências Farmacêuticas- PROPEP -Universidade São, Francisco-Bragança, Paulista, ST, Brazil

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We analyzed operant discrimination in detelencephalated pigeons and neuroanatomical substrates after long-term detelencephalation. In Experiment I, experimental pigeons with massive telencephalic ablation and control pigeons were conditioned to key peck for food. Successive discrimination was made under alternating red (variable-ratio reinforcement) and yellow (extinction) lights in one key of the chamber. These relations were interchanged during reversal discrimination. The sessions were run until steady-state rates were achieved. Experiment II analyzed the morphology of the nucleus rotundus and optic tectum in long-term detelencephalated and control birds, using a Klüver-Barrera staining and image analyzer system. Detelencephalated birds had more training sessions for response shaping and steady-state behavior (p<0.001), higher red key peck rates during discrimination (p<0.01), and reversal discrimination indexes around 0.50. Morphometric analysis revealed a decreased number of neurons and increased vascularity, associated with increases in the perimeter (p<0.001) in the nucleus rotundus. In the optic tectum, increases in the perimeter (p<0.05) associated with disorganization in the layers arrangement were seen. The data indicate that telencephalic systems might have an essential function in reversal operant discrimination learning. The structural characteristics of subtelencephalic systems after long-term detelencephalation evidence plastic changes that might be related to functional mechanisms of learning and neural plasticity in pigeons.