an unusual brain boosted with interneurons

We knew that crows were very intelligent birds. Now we discover that they have very special neural networks.

In at least three species of crows, researchers have recently identified a number (The notion of number in linguistics is treated in the article “Number…) “unusually high” of cells in the brain (The brain is the main organ of the central nervous system of animals. The brain processes…) involved in “information processing”.

More precisely, among the birds of six species (including theostrich (Ostrich is the name that the avian nomenclature in French language (updated) gives…) and the pigeon) examined by these researchers, crows have the highest number of so-called interneurons. These are the neurons that “transmit” the signals between the different “networks”. They are therefore at the heart of decision-making – to do or not to do a particular task – and, with us, at the heart of planning (Planning is the programming of actions and operations to be carried out) tasks or the risk assessment of a task.

Crows had 290 million of these interneurons, compared to 124 million for the ostrich and 40 million for the pigeon and the chicken (A chicken is a young poultry, male or female, of the subspecies Gallus gallus…). The difference with ostriches is all the more surprising since their brain is twice the weight (Weight is the force of gravity, of gravitational and inertial origin, exerted by the…) of that of a crow.

Humans, by comparison, have about 1.3 billion (One billion (1,000,000,000) is the natural number following nine hundred…) of interneurons.

Remember that crows are one of those rare animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror (A mirror is an object with a sufficiently polished surface for an image to form on it…). They can use a tool (A tool is a finalized object used by a living being in order to increase its…) to get a piece of food in a hard-to-reach place. Researchers claimed last year that they could understand the concept of zero (The number zero (from the Italian zero, derived from the Arabic sifr,…). And they can schedule tasks. It is therefore not unexpected to find one trace (TRACE is a NASA space telescope designed to study the connection between the…) measurable in their brain, although that does not explain why this bird (A bird (or class Aves) is a tetrapod animal belonging to the phylum…) evolved in this direction and not the pigeon, for example. However, it opens a small door to a possible better understanding of what, in our own brains, could have started to make the difference, a few million years ago.

This research (Scientific research designates in the first place all the actions undertaken with a view to…) is part of a series which, in recent years, has effectively tried to decode what was so special in the brains of certain birds – not just crows – whose cognitive abilities never cease to amaze. For example, two teams had looked into 2020 in the review Science on the pallium, a region of the brain which, although it is very small in birds -small head obliges- has nevertheless revealed neurons whose “theorganization (An organization is)” recalls that of our cortex (In biology, the cortex (Latin word meaning bark) designates the superficial layer or…): either the area of ​​our brain associated among other things with so-called “higher” tasks, such as language and memory (Generally speaking, memory is the storage of information. It is also remembering…). Again, that doesn’t explain why the crow and not another one, but it reminds us that, even in a very small head, neurons can manage to “maximize” the space available to them.

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