Raven successfully completes cognitive performance experiment
Dr Simone Pika said the findings gave her a fascinating insight into the surprising refinement of the bird brain. Dr Pika, from the University of Osnabruck in Germany, who published the results of her research in Scientific Reports earlier this month, evaluated subjects in experimental tasks to test their understanding of the physical world and how they interact with other crows. When comparing their performance with that of 106 chimpanzees and 32 orangutans who completed similar tasks in a previous study, the authors found that the cognitive performance of the crows by the time they were four months old, with the exception of spatial memory, was very much the same.
The rapid rate of cognitive development of crows was very surprising
Dr Pika told Express.co.uk: ‘The rapid pace of cognitive development of crows has been very surprising.
‘We expected the performance levels to change during this relatively close period of 4-16 months old.
“In addition, we did not expect the crows’ performance to be the lowest in spatial skills tasks because they live in a highly spatial world.
‘But here we suggest that analyzes of why species fail in certain tests, combined with informed versions of their ecological and social validity, will help to gain a better understanding of whether different tasks are too easy or too difficult for a particular species to te los.
“In addition, socialization may strongly influence cognitive performance, and as we do not yet know enough about the cognitive skills and potential of many species, the focus on socialization and the impact of development will be crucial for future studies.”
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Some crows interact
Her study provided more compelling evidence to dispel the kind of stereotypes that led to the expression “bird brain”, Dr Pika said.
She explained: ‘For a long time, researchers underestimated the intelligence, brain structures and cognitive potential of birds.
“The problem dates back to Ludwig Edinger, a German neuroscientist who was active in the nineteenth century. Edinger thought that the brain of the bird’s brain was primitive and consisted of nothing but basal ganglia that control instinctive behavior.
‘In contrast, he thought, the mammalian brain consists of layers that create and learn a’ neocortex ‘.
“In general, the brain of mammals and birds is completely different. Mammals have the neocortex, which is the outer layer of the brain, and have a low (laminar) organization. This is often seen as the hallmark of the advanced cognition of mammals. .
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Dr Simone Pika said that crows are individually personal
‘The neocortex is also the largest part of the human brain, and this is thought to give rise to advanced intellectual abilities of primates.
“In contrast, birds have no neocortex, but a structure called the pallium, which is organized into ball-like cells (nuclei).”
Recent studies have suggested that parrot brains actually have twice as many neurons as primate brains of the same size, Dr Pika pointed out.
‘In the course of her studies, Dr Pika especially took up with the raven she worked with.
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The study equates crows with orangutans and chimpanzees
One of the crows is put to the test
She explained: ‘Ravens are wonderful creatures and they have different personalities.
‘I had a special bond with our raven Anton, a very large and beautiful male.
“Although I did not raise it by hand, I only needed a few weeks and he jumped near me in the birdcage, took walnuts or treats or played with me with a toy.
“We also had an exchange. Ravens make beautiful sounds.”
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Some of her surprising conclusions are that crows have an understanding of numbers in terms of what is more and what is less.
Dr Pika added: “They are also vocal learners and can mimic words, sounds, sounds, etc.”
Regarding possible future studies, she said: “I want to know more about the rapid rate of cognitive development of crows, but also possible cognitive changes after 16 months of age.
“Our crows have shown differences between individuals and tasks, so I would like to study how their personality fits in here and how socialization affects their cognitive development.
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“Many studies on cognitive skills of great apes have been done on captive individuals living in artificial groups.
‘Therefore, their rearing and development experiences are very different and much poorer compared to the complex ecological and social environments of their wild species.
“We do not yet know enough about their cognitive skills and potential, and the aspect of socialization and impact of development is in my way crucial to enable a true understanding and comparison between cognitive skills and potential of species.
“Future studies should also develop comparative cognitive test batteries used in true species rather than human-specific cognitive skills.”