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Keywords:

  • striatum;
  • pallidum;
  • pallium;
  • thalamus;
  • evolution

Abstract

Early 20th-century comparative anatomists regarded the avian telencephalon as largely consisting of a hypertrophied basal ganglia, with thalamotelencephalic circuitry thus being taken to be akin to thalamostriatal circuitry in mammals. Although this view has been disproved for more than 40 years, only with the recent replacement of the old telencephalic terminology that perpetuated this view by a new terminology reflecting more accurate understanding of avian brain organization has the modern view of avian forebrain organization begun to become more widely appreciated. The modern view, reviewed in the present article, recognizes that the avian basal ganglia occupies no more of the telencephalon than is typically the case in mammals, and that it plays a role in motor control and motor learning as in mammals. Moreover, the vast majority of the telencephalon in birds is pallial in nature and, as true of cerebral cortex in mammals, provides the substrate for the substantial perceptual and cognitive abilities evident among birds. While the evolutionary relationship of the pallium of the avian telencephalon and its thalamic input to mammalian cerebral cortex and its thalamic input remains a topic of intense interest, the evidence currently favors the view that they had a common origin from forerunners in the stem amniotes ancestral to birds and mammals. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.