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Nature & Environment

Snails make decisions using only two neurons

By T.K. Randall
June 4, 2016 · Comment icon 9 comments

Not a lot goes on in the brain of a snail. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Grzegorz Polak
The humble freshwater snail manages to engage in complex decision-making using only two brain cells.
The processes that go on inside our own heads when we make decisions are not well understood, but in snails, which have relatively little to think about in their day-to-day lives, just a solitary pair of brain cells appears to be enough to enable the animals to work out what to do.

To learn more about how these molluscs think and operate, scientists attached electrodes to their brain circuitry and monitored them while they went hunting for something to eat.
The team discovered that the first brain cell tells the snail that it has found food while the second decides whether or not the animal is hungry. When no food is present, this particular part of the brain actually appears to shut down in an effort to conserve energy.

"What goes on in our brains when we make complex behavioural decisions and carry them out is poorly understood," said study leader Professor George Kemenes.

"Our study reveals for the first time how just two neurons can create a mechanism in an animal's brain which drives and optimises complex decision-making tasks."

Source: Sky News | Comments (9)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Leonardo 8 years ago
That's two more brain cells than many people use.
Comment icon #2 Posted by freetoroam 8 years ago
The first brain cell let it know it had discovered food and the second cell decided whether it was hungry. Its not quite a complex decision to make...but they want to use this in robots, now its getting scary.
Comment icon #3 Posted by EllJay 8 years ago
Aaah, that means I can booze away my braincells until I just have two left, and still be able to function a snail.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Wickian 8 years ago
Two brain cells is probably the minimum and equivalent to flipping a coin.
Comment icon #5 Posted by ExpandMyMind 8 years ago
Comment icon #6 Posted by jarjarbinks 8 years ago
2 brain cells ? Remind me of a guy in high school...
Comment icon #7 Posted by Taun 8 years ago
That still puts them 2 and a half cells above politicians...
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hammerclaw 8 years ago
So the snail brain computes in binary algorithms.
Comment icon #9 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago

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