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nsects with minuscule brains may be as intelligent as much bigger animals and may even have consciousness, it was claimed today.
Having a brain the size of a pinhead does not necessarily make you less bright, say researchers.
Computer simulations show that consciousness could be generated in neural circuits tiny enough to fit into an insect's brain, according to the scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and Cambridge University.
The models suggest that counting ability could be achieved with just a few hundred nerve cells, it is claimed.
And a few thousand would be sufficient to make an animal a conscious being, rather than an automated 'living robot'.
'Animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent,' said Professor Lars Chittka, from Queen Mary's Research Centre for Psychology, writing in the journal Current Biology.
'We know that body size is the single best way to predict an animal's brain size.
'However, contrary to popular belief, we can't say that brain size predicts their capacity for intelligent behaviour.
'In bigger brains we often don't find more complexity, just an endless repetition of the same neural circuits over and over.
'This might add detail to remembered images or sounds, but not add any degree of complexity. To use a computer analogy, bigger brains might in many cases be bigger hard drives, not necessarily better processors.'
Differences in brain size between animals can be extreme. A whale's brain can weigh up to nine kilograms and be packed with more than 200 billion nerve cells.
Human brains vary in weight between 1.25 kilograms and 1.45 kilograms, and have an estimated 85 billion neurons.
In contrast, a honeybee's brain weighs one milligram and contains fewer than a million nerve cells.
Many size differences existed only in specific brain regions, the scientists pointed out.
This was often the case in animals with highly developed senses, such as sight or hearing, or which have an ability to make very precise movements.
Increased size allowed the brain to function in more detail, finer resolution, and higher sensitivity or to achieve greater precision.
Research suggested that bigger animals may need larger brains simply because there was more to control. More nerves were needed to move bigger muscles, for example.
Much 'advanced' thinking could be done with very limited numbers of neurons, the scientists claimed.
Insects may have tiny brains, but they can perform some seriously impressive feats of mental gymnastics.
According to a growing number of studies, some insects can count, categorize objects, even recognize human faces -- all with brains the size of pinheads.
Ants and bees have notoriously complex social systems. Along with other insects, they can move in a surprising number of ways to communicate or get around.
Bees, for example, can sting, scout for food, guard the hive and fan their wings for ventilation, along with more than 50 other behaviors. The insect's behavioral repertoire, in fact, surpasses that of some vertebrates.”
"They are fantastically smart," Chittka said. "Perhaps we are only amazed by this because we think small brains shouldn't be able to do it."
In fact, scientists have calculated that a few hundred neurons should be enough to enable counting. A few thousand neurons could support consciousness. Engineers hope to use that kind of information to design programs that do things like recognize faces from a variety of angles, distances and emotional states. That's something bees can do, but computers still can't.
"Knowing how an insect functions and produces complex behaviors with a brain that's a million-fold smaller than ours makes it a little easier to envision that we might be able to model some of these behaviors," Farris said.
"It's wonderful to see that insects are finally being compared equally with vertebrate animals," she added. "They have smaller brains, but they still have complex enough brains to do these things."
Laser-controlled flies may be the latest addition to the neuroscientist's tool kit, thanks to a new technique.
Researchers have devised a way to write memories onto the brains of flies, revealing which brain cells are involved in making bad memories.
The researchers said that in flies just 12 brain cells were responsible for what is known as "associative learning".
Originally posted by TiM3LoRd
Absolutely agree with that. Just because they dont drink beer kill each other over trivial garbage pollute their environment and follow celebrity gossip doesnt mean they are not self aware. They might not make art or express themselves in a creative manner but that doesnt mean they dont posses consciousness.
Originally posted by berenike
Insects May Have Consciousness
I have a pet tarantula. It's a pretty normal spider except for one little thing.
I can reach into her cage and snatch her right up. Sometimes she will try to climb the glass, I'll stick my hand in there and she will actually climb on to my hand and wait for me to take her out.
I can hand her to other people with no problems.
Here is the strange part.
I can reach in there and pick her right up with no issue.
If you where to reach in there... well.... you better pray you are faster than she is.
Originally posted by Loki Lyesmyth
In our traditional teachings all living things have spirit and mind.
This is why we must respect all of life and our reletives, be them winged, hooved or feathered or scaled.
How we treat life around us is how we treat ourselves.
The "SAVAGES" knew this... but hey what did they know? (how to live and be within nature and the sacred circle)
Thank you very much for this post. I lvoe this sort of thing...
Fish have feelings too