Avian Visual Cognition

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VI. Conclusions 

 Unlike many other issues we face in our efforts to understand avian cognition, the problem of the discrimination of motion concepts is a well-defined behavioural problem. It has been obvious what experiments need to be done; it is just that, until very recently, it has been extremely difficult to do them. With modern technologies, however, it represents a model system for exploring the relationship of neuronal structures, behaviour, ecology and cognition. In this chapter, the view has been submitted that motion information is a fundamental feature in visual processing and, furthermore, that object recognition and concept discrimination might be tightly linked in various ways to the visual processing of motion in birds. The importance of the animal's own movements and its relation to motion processing has been emphasised. It has been shown that studies of animal behaviour related to motion as a result of their own movements have had great success in a number of areas, for example optic flow. Very much less attention has been given to other processes, the understanding of which seem at least as important and interesting to us. These include on the one hand, the importance of head and body movements for the exploring and enhancing of the bird's visual input -possibilities of  the 'visual enhancing' hypothesis have been discussed in this context-, as well as the extent of positional changes which a bird notices and on the other, the way in which motion features are integrated, categorised and the sort of information which a bird possesses about moving objects.  Studies of the cognitive as well as physiological mechanisms relevant to visual motion processing can only proceed in animals if a theoretical framework and a body of experimental findings at the different levels of brain functioning can be developed from animal studies. The notions of 'motion integrators' and motion concepts and their relationship with concept discrimination have been explored as part of a conceptual framework for studying motion processing.  As in this chapter, the task is to understand how birds learn, structure, store and use motion information about dynamic events in their natural environment as well as in the laboratory. As yet, only the most elementary questions have been posed. The results we have been able to report in this chapter are encouraging, however, and we expect a great deal more work on the discrimination of moving patterns by birds to follow in the near future.

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