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Squid's Brain Contains 500 Million Neurons

Squid's Brain Contains 500 Million Neurons

Wednesday, 12 February, 2020 - 07:00
A giant squid off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo CREDIT: KOJI SASAHARA/AP
Cairo - Hazem Badr

The intelligence of squids has long caught researchers' interest, especially their color changing skill that allows them to integrate in different backgrounds and communicate with mates.


A research team at the University of Queensland, Australia, has recently uncovered the secret behind this animal's unique potentials.


The researchers have turned to modern technology to complete the first MRI-based map of the brain of the squid. They found that a squid has 500 million neurons. This number is higher than that of rats (200 million) and is more similar to what a dog's brain contains. The results of their study now appear in the journal iScience.


According to the study, the team basically adapted the ideas and techniques from mouse brain research with lots of modifications to make the first high-res squid brain imaging work.


The researchers observed 145 neural connections and pathways, more than 60 percent of which are linked to vision and motor systems. They also found that a lot of neural circuits are dedicated to camouflage and visual communication, giving the squid a unique ability to evade predators and hunt.


It took Senior Author Dr. Wen-Sung Chung and team some four years to come up with the first mesoscale brain map.


"It is like finally we have an early stage Google map, which allows us to navigate the complex brain lobes of these soft bodied creatures with solid knowledge background. This will help target some specific brain lobes or regions to investigate how these apparently smart animals evolve to these abilities," Chung told the Medical News Today website.


"I will focus on their vision-related abilities such as why and how they can do colorblind camouflage, as well as how they can see the polarization signals, which are invisible for most aquatic creatures," he added.


In the future, Chung and colleagues are looking at a comparison of the brain architecture among cephalopods including the solitary octopus, to see if their brains evolved differently according to ecosystem.


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