Unihemispheric Evidence Accumulation in Pigeons

Neslihan Wittek, Hiroshi Matsui, Mehdi Behroozi, Tobias Otto, Kevin Wittek, Nurullah Sarı, Sven Stoecker, Sara Letzner, Vikash Choudhary, Jutta Peterburs, Onur Güntürkün

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perceptual decision making involves choices between alternatives based on sensory information. Studies in primates and rodents revealed a stochastic perceptual evidence accumulation process that, after reaching threshold, results in action execution. Birds represent a cognitively highly successful vertebrate class that has been evolving independent from mammals for more than 300 million years. The present study investigated whether perceptual decision making in pigeons shows behavioral and computational dynamics comparable to those in mammals and rodents. Using a novel “pigeon helmet” with liquid shutter displays that controls visual input to individual eyes/hemispheres with precise timing, we indeed revealed highly similar dynamics of perceptual decision making. Thus, both mammals and birds seem to share this core cognitive process that possibly represents a fundamental constituent of decision making throughout vertebrates. Interestingly, in our experiments we additionally discovered that both avian hemispheres start independent sensory accumulation processes without any major interhemispheric exchange. Because birds lack a corpus callosum and have only a small anterior commissure, they seem to be forced to decide on motor responses based on unihemispheric decisions under conditions of time pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-316
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of experimental psychology. Animal learning and cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • evidence accumulation
  • perceptual-decision
  • pigeons
  • unihemispheric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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