Once again, we’re forced to admit that humanity still has a lot more to learn about the brain, and not just the human one. As some birds had proven themselves incredibly smart by being able to recognize paintings or creating tools, these beautiful creatures captured the scientists’ attention.
A team of researchers has found an arrangement of microcircuits located in the avian brain that’s possible to be analogous to the mammalian neocortex. Although the neocortex is responsible for planning, working memory, and problem-solving, birds are mysteriously lacking this region of the brain.
The pallium holds the answer
Martin Stacho, who’s a neuroanatomist at Ruhr-University Bochumand, analyzed with his colleagues tiny slices of three brains belonging to homing pigeons. By using 3D polarized light imaging, this technique let the scientists analyze the circuitry of the forebrain region called the pallium. This region has distinctive structures that are connected by long fibers.
The scientists compared the images pallia from the birds to those of monkeys, rats, and human cortices. The outstanding conclusion was that the fibers from the birds’ pallia are organized in a manner incredibly similar to those of fibers from mammal cortexes.
John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist who wasn’t involved in the study, says:
“This research confirms the old adage that looks can be deceiving,”
Even if bird and mammalian brains “look very different, this study shows us they are actually wired in very complementary ways.”
The next concern is if birds also have consciousness, although many scientists say that this is an exclusive feature for humans. Having consciousness means to be aware of what you’re doing and of your existence. Further studies are required so that scientists can come with a definitive answer if birds have consciousness or not. If the answer is ‘yes’, it will be a revolutionary discovery.