Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Convergent evolution of numerosity detection in bird and primate brains.

From Ditz and Nieder:
Birds are known for their advanced numerical competence, although a six-layered neocortex that is thought to enable primates with the highest levels of cognition is lacking in birds. We recorded neuronal activity from an endbrain association area termed nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) in crows that discriminated the number of items in displays. NCL neurons were tuned to preferred numerosities. Neuronal discharges were relevant for the crows’ correct performance. Both the neuronal and the behavioral tuning functions were best described on a logarithmic number line, just as predicted by the psychophysical Weber–Fecher Law. The behavioral and neuronal numerosity representations in the crow reflect surprisingly well those found in the primate association cortex. This finding suggests that distantly related vertebrates with independently developed endbrains adopted similar neuronal solutions to process quantity - convergent evolution of a superior solution to a common computational problem.

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