What happens in a crow’s brain when it uses tools?

What happens in a crow’s brain when it uses tools?
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“A thirsty crow wanted water from a pitcher, so he filled it with pebbles to raise the water level so he could drink,“Famous sums up Aesop’s fable. Although this tale is thousands of years old, animal behaviorists still use this challenge to study corvids (which include crows, crows, jays, and magpies) and their use of tools. at recent days Study nature communicationsResearchers from a collaboration between universities in Washington, Florida and Utah used radioactive tracers inside the brains of several American crows to see which parts of their brains were active when they used stones to get food from the bottom of a water-filled tube.

Their results indicate that motor learning and tactile control centers were activated in the brains of the more efficient crows, while sensory and higher order processing centers lit up in the brains of the less efficient crows. These findings suggest that proficiency in tool use is linked to specific memories and muscle control, which the researchers claim is similar to a skier’s perception of the track before a jump.

The researchers also found that among the bird subjects, female crows were particularly adept at using tools and quickly succeeded in the challenge. “[A] A follow-up question is whether female crows actually need more creative thinking than male crows Loma Pendergraftthe study’s first author and a graduate student at the University of Washington, who wants to understand whether female crows’ less dominant, caregiving role gives them a higher ability to use tools.

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While there are only two types of crows ( New Caledonia The crow and the Hawaiian crow) naturally use branches and sticks Feeding toolsThis study also suggests that other crow species, such as the American crow, have the neuroplasticity to learn to use tools.

A less intrusive look at bird brains

Due to their unique behaviors, complex social structures, and reported intelligence, crows have fascinated animal behaviorists for decades. Scientists can study crows’ brains in real time using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a radioactive tracer, which researchers injected into the crows’ brains. They then use positron emission tomography (PET) to see which areas of the brain are activated during different tasks.

“FDG-PET is a method we use to remotely examine activity throughout the entire brain without the need for any surgeries or implants,” Pendergraft explained. “It’s like [a functional] Magnetic resonance imaging. The FDG-PET method is non-invasive, as the crows are not required to sit still, which reduces the stress the crows feel during the experiment. In the Nature Communications study, Pendergraft and his team made sure the crows were anesthetized before scanning them.

FDG is also used in many medical imaging techniques, e.g Diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease or Investigate to cancerous tissue. “Basically, the body treats it as glucose, which is essential for cells to survive,” Pendergraft added. “If one part of the body is working harder than usual, it will need extra glucose to power the extra activity. This means we can measure relative FDG concentrations within the brain as a proxy for relative brain activity.”

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