Biologists have uncovered the architecture of the centers of vision in the brain of octopuses

(ORDO NEWS) — American neurophysiologists have studied the structure of the centers of vision in the brain of octopuses and revealed their unique architecture, which helps these molluscs see the world around them as well as mammals.

  • The results were announced on Monday by the press service of the University of Oregon.

“We were able to identify six subclasses of nerve cells that are present in the optic lobe of the octopus brain.

For example, we discovered a set of neurons that produce the hormone octopamine, which increases the visual acuity of invertebrates.

Now we have the opportunity to study what functions these types of neurons perform, related to the amazing vision of octopuses,” said Christopher Neill, an associate professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene (USA), whose words are quoted by the press service of the university.

Octopuses and squids are traditionally considered one of the most “advanced” invertebrate living creatures, possessing a complex nervous system, including the brain, as well as unusual sense organs.

In particular, these cephalopods are able to see not only with the help of their eyes, but also with their entire skin as a whole, while their tentacles have a unique autonomic nervous system and taste buds.

Neill and his colleagues were interested in whether there were similarities in the structure of those areas of the brain that are responsible for the processing and perception of visual information that humans and octopuses receive with the help of eyes arranged in a very similar way.

With this idea in mind, the scientists acquired several young octopuses of the species Octopus bimaculoides and traced the activity of a large number of genes in their nerve cells.

Unique brain

The researchers note that they paid special attention to those parts of DNA that were previously associated with the functioning of the organs of vision and the nervous system in both humans and fruit flies, as well as some other cephalopods.

In total, the researchers obtained data on the activity of genes in 26,000 cells extracted from different regions within the centers of vision in the brain of Octopus bimaculoides.

The analysis showed that in the optical lobe of the brain of octopuses there are six large subclasses of nerve cells that produce different chemical signals and differ markedly from each other in shape, structure and level of activity.

The nature of the interactions between these cells, as well as the structure of the connections between them, turned out to be absolutely different from how the visual regions of the human brain and other mammals are arranged.

In addition to this, the scientists found that about a third of the nerve cells in the visual lobe of the octopus brain are immature.

This suggests that the structure of this region of the cephalopod nervous system is constantly changing and becoming more complex as these neurons mature and grow.

In addition, the scientists discovered a large number of cells that responded to signaling molecules atypical for the vertebrate brain, such as octopamine and orcokinin.

As the researchers hope, the role and function of these substances, as well as the properties of the groups of neurons associated with them, will be revealed in the course of subsequent experiments on octopuses.

Within their framework, scientists plan to study how turning off or forcing the activation of genes associated with the operation of these signals will affect the vision and behavior of Octopus bimaculoides and other octopuses.

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