Researchers have made a breakthrough in studying the brain waves of octopuses, as they successfully recorded brain activity from three octopuses in motion for the first time. The experiment was conducted by Tamar Gutnick and her team at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, and the results were published in Current Biology on February 23.
The research was particularly challenging, as octopuses are difficult to work with due to their pliable bodies and their tendency to resist traditional methods of brain wave recording. To address these challenges, the team used portable data loggers and implanted them surgically in the octopuses.
The researchers then monitored the brain waves of the animals as they went about their daily activities for 12 hours. Although the study revealed some unexpected patterns in the octopuses' brain waves, it is still too early to determine how the animals' behavior is controlled by their brains.
During the 12-hour monitoring period, certain brain wave patterns were observed across all three octopuses. These patterns included waves similar to those seen in the human hippocampus, which plays a vital role in memory consolidation. Additionally, brain waves were detected that resembled those responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles in other animals.
The study also uncovered previously unseen brain waves, which were characterized by their slow frequency of just 2 hertz and their unusually strong synchronization between neurons. These unique patterns were occasionally detected by a single electrode and sometimes by electrodes placed far apart.
While these discoveries are noteworthy, Tamar Gutnick cautions that it is too soon to determine if they are linked to specific behaviors or cognitive functions. Further experiments involving repetitive tasks will be necessary to understand how these brain regions are activated during learning in octopuses.
The recent study is noteworthy as it offers a method for future researchers to study brain activity in naturally behaving and alert octopuses, which is an exciting prospect, according to Robyn Crook. This method could be used to explore the neural processes underlying the animals' impressive visual capabilities, color-changing abilities, adept arm control, and sleep patterns.
Octopuses are known for their high level of intelligence, and studying these creatures can offer insights into the factors that contribute to intelligence, says Tamar Gutnick. By observing octopuses as they solve problems, researchers can learn about the similarities and differences in problem-solving approaches and gain valuable insights.
T. Gutnick et al. Recording electrical activity from the brain of behaving octopus. C