Head direction cells in a migratory bird prefer north

Authors: Susumu Takahashi, Takumi Hombe, Sakiko Matsumoto, Kaoru Ide, and Ken Yoda

Year: 2022

Publication: Science Advances

Publication Link: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abl6848


Animals exhibit remarkable navigation abilities as if they have an internal compass. Head direction (HD) cells
encoding the animal’s heading azimuth are found in the brain of several animal species; the HD cell signals are
dependent on the vestibular nuclei, where magnetic responsive cells are present in birds. However, it is difficult
to determine whether HD cell signals drive the compass orientation in animals, as they do not necessarily rely on
the magnetic compass under all circumstances. Recording of HD cell activities from the medial pallium of shearwater
chicks (Calonectris leucomelas) just before their first migration, during which they strongly rely on compass
orientation, revealed that shearwater HD cells prefer a north orientation. The preference remained stable regardless
of geolocations and environmental cues, suggesting the existence of a magnetic compass regulated by internally
generated HD signals. Our findings provide insight into the integration of the direction and magnetoreception senses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *