Birds Have More Neurons in Their Brains than Mammals, Study Finds

Parrot, Bird, Pet, AraA new study led by Vanderbilt University scientist Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel has found that birds have significantly more neurons packed into their brains than are stuffed into mammalian and even primate brains of the same mass. The study, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a straightforward answer to a puzzle that researchers have been wrestling with for years: how can birds with their tiny brains perform complicated cognitive behaviors? “We found that birds, especially songbirds and parrots, have surprisingly large numbers of neurons in their pallium: the part of the brain that corresponds to the cerebral cortex, which supports higher cognition functions such as planning for the future or finding patterns,” Dr. Herculano-Houzel said. “That explains why they exhibit levels of cognition at least as complex as primates.”

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