‘Bird Brains’ No More

Some New Names And New Respect: “Today an international group of experts is publishing a call for scientists around the world to switch to a new set of words to describe the various parts of the avian brain — a wholesale revision of terms that is rarely seen in science and the first total makeover of bird brain anatomy in more than a century.

The new system, which draws upon many of the words used to describe the human brain and has broad support among scientists, acknowledges the now overwhelming evidence that avian and mammalian brains are remarkably similar — a fact that explains why many kinds of bird are not just twitchily resourceful but able to design and manufacture tools, solve mathematical problems and, in many cases, use language in ways that even chimpanzees and other primates cannot.

In particular, it reflects a new recognition that the bulk of a bird’s brain is not, as scientists once thought, mere ‘basal ganglia’ — the part of the brain that simply coordinates instincts. Rather, fully 75 percent of a bird’s brain is an intricately wired mass that processes information in much the same way as the vaunted human cerebral cortex.” (Washington Post)