For decades, several studies have considered birds as cognitively less evolved animals. However, in recent years, many researches have shown how complex bird brains are, countering classical studies. In this sense, on September 25, 2020 two studies showed how the brain structure of birds is extremely complex and even similar to that of humans. One of the studiesshows a structure similar to the mammalian cortex, present in the brain of birds. The second, on the other hand, demonstrates the sensory awareness of birds of the crow family.
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The cortex, on the other hand, is directly related to the development of intelligence in mammals. However, birds lack this portion of the brain - which until then was a clue to lower cognitive ability. However, researchers have shown how birds have developed an analogous structure that is very important for cognition. The pallium is a portion that can account for up to 75% of the volumebrain of birds is primarily responsible, according to the authors, for the near-human intelligence of some birds such as crows and pigeons.
An animal's sensory awareness is also related to the animals' cortex. However, bird brains have shown great neuronal activity when performing tasks. It turns out that in bird brains the pallium can be an essential part of understanding the environment. This allows crows to, for example, draw conclusions or even think about future events. gulls, in that sense,they learn to identify the best times and places to steal food.
The evolution of the bird brain
About 270 million years ago, hundreds of primitive reptiles inhabited planet earth. The dimetrodon, for example, was an animal that resembled a Komodo dragon and was one of the first animals of that time to have features that mammals have today, such as differentiated teeth. These ancient and clumsy reptiles were probably the common ancestor of modern reptiles, birds andmammals. Thus, these three groups have some characteristics in common, and especially birds and mammals are more recent on an evolutionary scale.
As mentioned earlier, as mammals evolved, the cortex grew larger and more complex. This allowed humans, for example, to learn to use tools and predict future events, which differentiates us from most other animals. Birds and mammals, moreover, have the largest brains in relation to body mass, indicating yet another similarity with theseHowever, over millions of years, birds developed structures analogous to the mammalian cortex, so researchers were able to identify the pallium as being primarily responsible for some birds being able to differentiate between paintings by Monet and Picasso, for example.
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Pigeons can even learn to spell the English alphabet as well as 6-year-old children. For these reasons, the studies represent a much deeper understanding of the bird brain. This, again, goes against decades of studies and may show how birds are cognitively similar to humans.
The articles are available in the journal Science: A neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird, A cortex-like canonical circuit in the avian forebrain.