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BioPsy-Colloquium, Monday, 30.01.17, 1 - 3 pm, GAFO 05/425
Mehdi Behroozi (RUB Biopsychology): Functional Organization of Crocodilian and Avian Brain


Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Fakultät für Psychologie
AE Biopsychologie
GAFO 05/618
D-44780 Bochum

Phone: +49 234 - 32 28213
Fax: +49 234 - 32 14377


News & Views

Neurons in the pigeon “prefrontal” area differentiate Pavlovian conditioned stimuli but not their associated reward value

Animals exploit visual information to identify objects, form stimulus-reward associations, and prepare appropriate behavioral responses. The avian “prefrontal” nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) contains neurons that play a key role in these processes. But do these neurons code for pictorial aspects, stimulus value, or sensorimotor contingencies? To test these questions, biopsychologists from Bochum, Cold Spring Harbor and Mainz subjected pigeons to a Pavlovian sign-tracking paradigm in which visual cues predicted rewards differing in magnitude (large vs. small) and delay to presentation (short vs. long). Subjects’ strength of conditioned responding to visual cues reliably differentiated between predicted reward types and thus indexed valuation. The majority of NCL neurons discriminated between visual cues, with discriminability peaking shortly after stimulus onset and being maintained at lower levels throughout the stimulus presentation period. However, while some cells’ firing rates correlated with reward value, such neurons were not more frequent than expected by chance. Instead, neurons formed discernible clusters which differed in their preferred visual cue. The authors propose that this activity pattern constitutes a prerequisite for using visual information in more complex situations e.g. requiring value based choices.


Kasties, N., Starosta, S., Güntürkün, O., Stüttgen, M.C., Neurons in the pigeon caudolateral nidopallium differentiate Pavlovian conditioned stimuli but not their associated reward value in a signtracking paradigm, Scientific Reports, 2016, 6: 35469.


News & Views

Activation of 5-HT1A/1B-receptors decreases impulsivity for “waiting” but increases that for “stopping”

The 5-HT1A/1B-receptor agonist eltoprazine is effective in treating impulsivity disorders, most likely by increasing norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) levels in the prefrontal cortex. But how eltoprazine affects monoamine release in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and the NAc is unknown. It is also unknown whether eltoprazine affects different forms of impulsivity and brain reward mechanisms. Therefore, behavioral pharmacologists and biopsychologists from Utrecht and Bochum investigated the effects of eltoprazine in rats with respect to the activity of the monoaminergic system, the motivation for reward, “waiting” impulsivity in the delay-aversion task, and the “stopping” impulsivity in the stop-signal task. The results clearly showed that eltoprazine increased DA and NE release in both the mPFC and OFC, but only increased DA concentration in the NAc. In contrast, eltoprazine decreased 5-HT release in the mPFC and NAc. Remarkably, eltoprazine decreased impulsive choice, but increased impulsive action. These results further support the long-standing hypothesis that “waiting” and “stopping” impulsivity are regulated by distinct neural circuits, because 5-HT1A/1B-receptor activation decreases impulsive choice, but increases impulsive action.


Korte, S.M., Prinsa, J., Van den Bergha, F.S., Oostinga, R.S., Dupreea, R., Korte-Bouwsa, G.A.H., Westphala, K.G.C., Olivier, B., Denys, D.A., Garland, A., Güntürkün, O., The 5-HT1A/1B-receptor agonist eltoprazine increases both catecholamine release in the prefrontal cortex and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and decreases motivation for reward and “waiting” impulsivity, but increases “stopping” impulsivity. European Journal of Pharmacology, 2017, 794: 257–269.


News & Views

Adjusting foraging strategies: a comparison of rural and urban common mynas

Within a few hundred years, humans have changed vast natural habitats into cities. How do non-human animals cope with these changes? We know that some species disappear, while others exploit the benefits of this new ecology. Possibly, changes induced by urbanized environments cause a novel selection pressure on cognitive abilities. Scientists from Newcastle (Australia), Vienna, and Bochum studied this hypothesis in urban and rural common mynas using a standard visual discrimination task followed by a reversal learning phase. They not only compared the speed of learning but also how quickly each bird progressed through different stages of learning of reversal learning. Based on their reliance on very different food resources, they expected urban mynas to learn and reversal learn more quickly. When quantified from first presentation to criterion achievement, however, urban mynas took more 20-trial blocks to learn the initial discrimination, as well as the reversed contingency, than rural mynas. More detailed analyses at the level of stage revealed that this was because urban mynas explored the novel cue-outcome contingencies for longer, and despite transitioning faster through subsequent acquisition, remained overall slower than rural females. These findings draw attention to fine adjustments in learning strategies in response to urbanization and caution against interpreting the speed to learn a task too easily as a reflection of cognitive ability.


Federspiel IG, Garland A, Guez D, Bugynar T, Healy SD, Güntürkün O, Griffin AS., Adjusting foraging strategies: a comparison of rural and urban common mynas (Acridotheres tristis), Anim Cogn. 2016 Oct 24 [Epub ahead of print].


News & Views

Context specificity of both acquisition and extinction of a Pavlovian conditioned response

It is widely held that the extinction of a conditioned response is more context specific than its initial acquisition. One proposed explanation is that context serves to disambiguate the meaning of a stimulus. Using a procedure that equated the learning histories of the contexts, Biopsychologists from Cold Spring Harbor, Mainz, Marburg, and Bochum showed in pigeons that the memory of an appetitive Pavlovian association can be highly context specific despite being unambiguous. This result is inconsistent with predictions of the Rescorla–Wagner model of learning but in line with configural accounts of contextual control of behavior. The authors propose an explanatory model in which context serves to modulate the gain of associative strength and which expands upon the configural idea of unitary representations of context and conditioned stimuli.


Starosta S, Uengoer M, Bartetzko I, Lucke S, Güntürkün O, Stüttgen MC., Context specificity of both acquisition and extinction of a Pavlovian conditioned response. Learn Mem., 2016, 23: 639-643.


News & Views

Honorary Doctorate for Giorgio Vallortigara

On the 1st of December 2016, The Faculty of Psychology and thus the Ruhr-University Bochum awarded Prof. Dr. Giorgio Vallortigara from Trento University with the title of a Doctor rerum naturalium honoris causa (Dr. rer. nat. h. c.). This is a high and rare award, only given to very distinguished scholars. Within the 51 years of existence of our faculty, this award was before only given twice. Giorgio Vallortigara was awarded for his landmark contributions in comparative cognitive behavioral sciences. Among other insights, he could demonstrate that cognitive abilities that we thought were unique to humans are widespread within animals. He also showed that brain asymmetries are not a privilege of the human species, and that young animals are born with a rich knowledge about the world they are going to live in. Giorgio Vallortigara has published close to three hundred peer-reviewed scientific publications with some of them having appeared in top journals like Nature, Science, PNAS, Plos Biology, or Current Biology. But Giorgio Vallortigara is also a very successful organizer of academic systems. He was instrumental in the creation and foundation of the Center for Mind and Brain Sciences at the University of Trento in Northern Italy. This center is a unique place with a vast technical infrastructure for cognitive neuroscience and behavioral analyses. From the very beginning on, Giorgio Vallortigara was a central figure of this center and became its director from 2002 to 2015.

Congratulations Giorgio!!!


News & Views

New Graduate School "Situated Cognition"

The winter term meeting of the DFG Senate Commission on Graduate Schools had great news for Bochum and Osnabrück: A new Graduate School on Situated Cognition will be established for up to nine years on the Philosophy and the Neuroscience of Mind. Both Philosophers and Biopsychologists of both universities had worked relentlessly on the application. In its very core, the theoretical thrust of the application was to develop an alternative to the outmoded sandwich model of cognition. This sandwich model is the relict of a Fodor’ian thinking about modules. It posits that the mind consists of three main entities; perception, cognition, action. Each of these modules is encapsulated and can be disambiguated from each other. We meanwhile know, however, that cognition encompasses the full extent of information processing that runs from the first aspects of perception till the last step of action generation. Within this framework, emotion, social integration, and decision making will be analyzed using, among others, the concept of embodiment, according to which many cognitive features are shaped by aspects of the body beyond the brain. The picture associated with this message shows such a situation: Forcing us to display the emotion of smiling indeed increases our happiness. Our body shapes our mind. The School has also one PhD-slot for Biopsychologists from Bochum and will start in fall/summer 2017.


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