Nature & Environment
Snails make decisions using only two neurons
By T.K. Randall
June 4, 2016 · 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
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