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

From Sci News:

ScreenHunter_2043 Jun. 18 19.46The 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?

“For a long time having a ‘bird brain’ was considered to be a bad thing. Now it turns out that it should be a compliment,” Dr. Herculano-Houzel said.

Dr. Herculano-Houzel and co-authors systematically measured the number of neurons in the brains of 28 avian species ranging in size from the tiny zebra finch to the emu.

“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.”

That is possible because the neurons in avian brains are much smaller and more densely packed than those in mammalian brains.

More here.