Natures wonders: the mind of the octopus (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, 20:06 (85 days ago) @ David Turell

Another attempt at understanding the octopus nervous system:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190625102420.htm

"The new research supports previous findings that octopus' suckers can initiate action in response to information they acquire from their environment, coordinating with neighboring suckers along the arm. The arms then process sensory and motor information, and muster collective action in the peripheral nervous system, without waiting on commands from the brain.

"The result is a bottom-up, or arm-up, decision mechanism rather than the brain-down mechanism typical of vertebrates, like humans, according to Dominic Sivitilli, a graduate student in behavioral neuroscience and astrobiology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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"He believes understanding how the octopus perceives its world is as close as we can come to preparing to meet intelligent life beyond our planet.

"'It's an alternative model for intelligence," Sivitilli said. "It gives us an understanding as to the diversity of cognition in the world, and perhaps the universe."

"The octopus exhibits many similar behaviors to vertebrates, like humans, but its nervous system architecture is fundamentally different, because it evolved after vertebrates and invertebrates parted evolutionary ways, more than 500 million years ago.

"Vertebrates arranged their central nervous system in a cord up the backbone, leading to highly centralized processing in the brain. Cephalopods, like the octopus, evolved multiple concentrations of neurons called ganglia, arranged in a distributed network throughout the body. Some of these ganglia grew more dominant, evolving into a brain, but the underlying distributed architecture persists in the octopus's arms, and throughout its body.

"'The octopus' arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it," Sivitilli said. "So while the brain isn't quite sure where the arms are in space, the arms know where each other are and this allows the arms to coordinate during actions like crawling locomotion."

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"Of the octopus' 500 million neurons, more than 350 million are in its eight arms. The arms need all that processing power to manage incoming sensory information, to move and to keep track of their position in space. Processing information in the arms allows the octopus to think and react faster, like parallel processors in computers.

***

"'You're seeing a lot of little decisions being made by these distributed ganglia, just by watching the arm move, so one of the first things we're doing is trying to break down what that movement actually looks like, from a computational perspective," Gire said. "What we're looking at, more than what's been looked at in the past, is how sensory information is being integrated in this network while the animal is making complicated decisions.'"

Comment: The octopus brain must be able to integrate all the sensory info coming from its eight legs. It is a strange but an advanced system. All part of the need for echoniches for food supply.


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