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To: Trillian

A real Bird Brain

4 posted on 07/08/2020 4:01:01 PM PDT by Vendome (I've Gotta Be Me
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To: Vendome; Trillian
I read a book some time ago "The Genius of Birds" and it was fascinating. The author came across as a bit of a Lib, but the subject matter was really interesting.

Birds apparently have an inordinate amount of neurons in their brains, even proportionally more than primates. Here is an excerpt from an article published at Science News: Bird brain? Ounce for ounce birds have significantly more neurons in their brains than mammals or primates

"...The macaw has a brain the size of an unshelled walnut, while the macaque monkey has a brain about the size of a lemon. Nevertheless, the macaw has more neurons in its forebrain -- the portion of the brain associated with intelligent behavior -- than the macaque.

That is one of the surprising results of the first study to systematically measure the number of neurons in the brains of more than two dozen species of birds ranging in size from the tiny zebra finch to the six-foot-tall emu, which found that they consistently have more neurons packed into their small brains than are stuffed into mammalian or even primate brains of the same mass.

The study results were published online in a paper titled "Birds have primate-like numbers of neurons in the forebrain" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition on the week of June 13.

"For a long time having a 'bird brain' was considered to be a bad thing: Now it turns out that it should be a compliment," said Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, senior author of the paper with Pavel N?mec at the Charles University in Prague.

The study provides a straightforward answer to a puzzle that comparative neuroanatomists have been wrestling with for more than a decade: how can birds with their small brains perform complicated cognitive behaviors?

The conundrum was created by a series of studies beginning in the previous decade that directly compared the cognitive abilities of parrots and crows with those of primates. The studies found that the birds could manufacture and use tools, use insight to solve problems, make inferences about cause-effect relationships, recognize themselves in a mirror and plan for future needs, among other cognitive skills previously considered the exclusive domain of primates.

Scientists were left with a generally unsatisfactory fallback position: Avian brains must simply be wired in a completely different fashion from primate brains. Two years ago, even this hypothesis was knocked down by a detailed study of pigeon brains, which concluded that they are, in fact, organized along quite similar lines to those of primates.

The new study provides a more plausible explanation: Birds can perform these complex behaviors because birds' forebrains contain a lot more neurons than any one had previously thought -- as many as in mid-sized primates.

"We found that birds, especially songbirds and parrots, have surprisingly large numbers of neurons in their pallium: the part of the brain that corresponds to the cerebral cortex, which supports higher cognition functions such as planning for the future or finding patterns. That explains why they exhibit levels of cognition at least as complex as primates," said Herculano-Houzel, who recently joined the Vanderbilt psychology department.

That is possible because the neurons in avian brains are much smaller and more densely packed than those in mammalian brains, the study found. Parrot and songbird brains, for example, contain about twice as many neurons as primate brains of the same mass and two to four times as many neurons as equivalent rodent brains.

Not only are neurons packed into the brains of parrots and crows at a much higher density than in primate brains, but the proportion of neurons in the forebrain is also significantly higher, the study found..."

As I have gotten older and less active, I have become more and more interested in birds...fascinating creatures. They are one of the few wild animals you can observe both up close and for long periods of time. Most other animals scoot fairly quickly when they see you, but not birds. And they appear to be very interested in humans.

They are curious, especially the corvids like Crows and Blue Jays. Blue Jays are my favorites...they are beautiful, sure, but...they are interesting and fun to observe, they can appear almost clownishly silly in their behavior, and appear to exhibit human emotions (in addition to inordinate curiosity) like greed and vindictiveness.

I can't get them to eat out of my hand yet, but they sure know who the bald guy wearing the lab coat is...he's the guy with the peanuts! And when I lay in my hammock and smoke my pipe, the sparrows do low altitude flyovers in groups over me...flying in groups of three or four between my reclining form and the top of the pergola that holds up my hammock. They don't do it until I start smoking my pipe, and I swear...they seem to be completely overcome with curiosity about it. They land up in the grape vines covering the pergola and hop to and fro, peering at me between the leaves...:)

21 posted on 07/08/2020 4:37:12 PM PDT by rlmorel ("Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies"- George Orwell)
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