(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University observed in real time the creation of neurons in a cephalopod embryo.
The conclusion that scientists came to is rather unexpected: the brain of cephalopods is formed by the same processes as the brain of vertebrates. Probably, these processes are universal for large neural systems.
Scientists have concluded that the size of the nervous system largely determines its shape.
Cephalopods, which include octopuses, squids and cuttlefish, can process information quickly and can change shape and color to blend in with their environment. They can communicate, show signs of learning when moving in space, use “tools”.
Cephalopods have the most complex brain of any invertebrate on the planet. Scientists have long wondered how cephalopods even got such large brains.
Scientists at Harvard University studying the visual system of cephalopods believe they are close to understanding the basic principles of brain development.
The scientists used a new real-time imaging technique to observe the emergence of neurons in the embryo. They then tracked how these cells developed into the nervous system in the retina.
The shape of the brain determines its complexity
The cephalopod neural stem cells that the scientists tracked behaved very similarly to how such cells behave in vertebrates during the development of the nervous system.
It turns out that despite the fact that they separated from each other 500 million years ago, not only do vertebrates and cephalopods use similar mechanisms to create their large brains, but their nerve cells also act and divide in the same way.
“Our findings were unexpected because much of what we know about neural development in vertebrates has long been considered unique,” said Kristen Koenig, senior author of the study.
“By observing the fact that these independently developed very large nervous systems use the same construction mechanisms, one can conclude that these mechanisms are universal for large nervous systems.”
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