SIZE DOESN’T MAT­TER

Why a bird’s mi­nus­cule brain packs such a po­tent punch

Australian Geographic - - Snapshot -

THE NEOCORTEX is the pow­er­house of higher think­ing and mem­ory in the hu­man brain. It di­rects all con­scious thought, play­ing a cen­tral role in per­son­al­ity, lan­guage, self-aware­ness, prob­lem­solv­ing, plan­ning and flex­i­bil­ity. Un­til re­cently, it was thought that be­cause birds lacked a neocortex they weren’t ca­pa­ble of com­plex thought and ran purely on in­stinct. But sci­ence has found that the avian fore­brain, con­sist­ing of the pal­lium and its var­i­ous com­po­nents (such as the nidopal­lium), has func­tions sim­i­lar to those of the mam­malian neocortex. More im­por­tantly, we now know that some bird brains may pack twice as many neu­rons into a given unit of mass as do the brains of hu­mans and higher pri­mates. This may al­low birds to process and mem­o­rise in­for­ma­tion highly ef­fi­ciently and may ex­plain why some are as smart as apes and hu­man chil­dren.

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