Birds and humans have similar brain wiring

July 17, 2013 by Colin Smith

You may have more in common with a pigeon than you realise, according to research. It shows that humans and birds have brains that are wired in a similar way.

A researcher from Imperial College London and his colleagues have developed for the first time a map of a typical bird brain, showing how different regions are connected together to process information. By comparing it to brain diagrams for different mammals such as humans, the team discovered that areas important for high-level cognition such as long-term memory and problem solving are wired up to other regions of the brain in a similar way. This is despite the fact that both mammal and bird brains have been evolving down separate paths over hundreds of millions of years.

The team suggest that evolution has discovered a common blueprint for high-level cognition in .

Birds have been shown in previous studies to possess a range of skills such as a capacity for complex social reasoning, an ability to problem solve and some have even demonstrated the capability to craft and use tools.

Professor Murray Shanahan, author of the study from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London, says:

"Birds have been evolving separately from mammals for around 300 million years, so it is hardly surprising that under a microscope the brain of a bird looks quite different from a mammal. Yet, birds have been shown to be remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys. Our study demonstrates that by looking at brains that are least like our own, yet still capable of generating intelligent behaviour, we can determine the basic principles governing the way brains work."

The team developed their map by analysing 34 studies of the anatomy of the pigeon brain, which is typical for a bird. They focussed on areas called 'hub nodes', which are regions of the brain that are major centres for processing information and are important for high level cognition.

In particular, they looked at the hippocampus, which is important for navigation and long-term memory in both birds and mammals. They found that these hub nodes had very dense connections to other parts of the brain in both kinds of animal, suggesting they function in a similar way.

They also compared the prefrontal cortex in , which is important for complex thought such as decision making, with the nidopallium caudolaterale, which has a similar role in birds. They discovered that despite both hub nodes having evolved differently, the way they are wired up within the looks similar.

The long-term goal of the team is to use the information generated from the wiring diagram to build computer models that mimic the way that animal brains function, which would be used to control a robot.

The study was published this month in the Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience journal.

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11 comments

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antigoracle
1 / 5 (9) Jul 17, 2013
Science reluctantly absolves the birdbrained and pigeon toed.
billyc69
1.3 / 5 (16) Jul 17, 2013
Gee, every mammals brain is similar to all other mammal

proving once again of a designer at work.

Funny how 6 major worldwide cultures all have a flood story with one surviving family

but none have a story of how life spontaneously appeared from rain on a rock!

Still a shill for the religion of Darwin?

His only degree in Theology! Makes you all religious boobs! LOL!
Anda
5 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2013
Billyc69... Why finish your ... comment with lol? Think you're funny or that anybody cares?
That the 69 makes you mature? Rain on a rock? Darwin's religion?
Creationism mixed with childish humour... Pathetic
Egleton
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2013
@ Billy
"Seek, and do not stop looking until you find. When you find you will be perplexed, when perplexed, astounded and rule over all." Jesus Christ, Gospel of St. Thomas.
Keep looking Billy, your journey is not ended yet.
DistortedSignature
5 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2013
Hmm I didn't know pigeons were mammals billy. You learn new things every day!
pdorrell
1.3 / 5 (4) Jul 17, 2013
Misleading headline alert: The headline suggests there is something peculiarly bird-like about the human brain.

The story is actually "Birds and _mammals_ have similar brain wiring".

So nothing special about human brains. At least not in the context of this story.

gale_langseth
1 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2013
'So, how do we stop birds from sh!tting all over the place?' is a question that has leapt to mind, at least to my mind :-D (Yes, this question steers me clear of Darwinian or ID stuff! :-P)
PhotonX
5 / 5 (1) Jul 18, 2013
Just when I started missing kevintrs' idiocy, along comes BillyOralSex. The Universe is whole once again.
Gee, every mammals brain is similar to all other mammal proving once again of a designer at work.
No, once again proving that we all evolved from common ancestors.
Funny how 6 major worldwide cultures all have a flood story with one surviving family
Every place I've ever lived floods occasionally. Nothing odd about it. By the way, exactly how many Chinese were on the Ark, anyway?
but none have a story of how life spontaneously appeared from rain on a rock!
Typical simplistic, uneducated straw man nonsense. Nobody claims life came from rain on a rock.
LOL!
Don't worry. You'll grow up someday.
Ens
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2013
Sounds about right. I've seen plenty of bird brains posting here!
UberGoober
3 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2013
That explains a lot.
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (4) Jul 22, 2013
That explains a lot.


Maybe so. It doesn't explain why birds are more intelligent.

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