“We were able to see that each location in the optic lobe responded to one location on the screen in front of the animal. If we moved a spot over, the response moved over in the brain,” Neill recalled.
This type of map is similarly found in human brains for various senses, such as touch and vision. The locations of specific sensations have also been connected to distinct regions in the brain.
It is a decently complex evolutionary process that other animals, such as reptiles, do not have. So, even though the team hoped to observe this kind of visual map in their work, it was not a given– making this discovery all the more exciting since it had never been observed before.
Still, there was one big difference between the octopus’s visual system versus the human visual system: the octopus neurons responded quite strongly to big dark spots and small light spots.
Neill believes this reaction may be tied to specific factors present in the underwater environment, which octopuses are constantly exposed to and expected to navigate. Predators, for instance, may show up as looming, dark shadows; meanwhile, nearby food might appear as tiny bright spots.
Following this study, the team hopes to expand on their findings to determine how the octopus brain reacts to more intricate images, including things that the creatures really encounter in their environment.
To read the researchers’ complete findings, which have since been published in Current Biology, visit the link here.
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