Cannabinoid inhibition improves memory in food-storing birds, but with a cost

Michael W. Shiflett, Alexander Z. Rankin, Michelle L. Tomaszycki, Timothy J. DeVoogd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Food-storing birds demonstrate remarkable memory ability in recalling the locations of thousands of hidden food caches. Although this behaviour requires the hippocampus, its synaptic mechanisms are not understood. Here we show the effects of cannabinoid receptor (CB1-R) blockade on spatial memory in food-storing black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla). Intra-hippocampal infusions of the CB1-R antagonist SR141716A enhanced long-term memory for the location of a hidden food reward, measured 72 h after encoding. However, when the reward location changed during the retention interval, birds that had received SR141716A during initial learning showed impairments in recalling the most recent reward location. Thus, blocking CB1-R activity may lead to more robust, long-lasting memories, but these memories may be a source of proactive interference. The relationship between trace strength and interference may be important in understanding neural mechanisms of hippocampal function in general, as well as understanding the enhanced memory of food-storing birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2043-2048
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1552
StatePublished - Oct 7 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Cannabinoid
  • Chickadee
  • Hippocampus
  • Poecile atricapilla
  • Proactive interference
  • Spatial memory


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