© Developmental NeurobiologyMicrographs demonstrating the difference in size of the hippocampal formation in a bird from the wild, left, and captivity. Neither brain pictured was at the volumetric extreme of its group.
Being in captivity for just a few weeks can reduce the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 23 percent, according to a new Cornell study.
Caged birds may still sing, but being in captivity for just a few weeks can reduce the volume of the hippocampus by as much as 23 percent, according to a new Cornell study. The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in spatial learning and memory tasks.
The research, by psychology graduate student Bernard Tarr and professor Tim DeVoogd, indicates that the hippocampus is highly sensitive to some or all of the environmental conditions that change in captivity -- including, among other things, social stimulation, exercise, food-storing opportunities and stress. The article is online at the journal of Developmental Neurobiology's
The results provide new clues that could help researchers better understand human stress disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which have been linked in previous studies of mammals to decreased hippocampal volume.