Academic journal article Science and Children

Bigger Brains

Academic journal article Science and Children

Bigger Brains

Article excerpt

Tiny insects could be as intelligent as much bigger animals despite only having a brain the size of a pinhead, say scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

"Animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent," according to Lars Chittka, professor at Queen Mary's Research Centre for Psychology.


This begs the important question: What are they for?

Research repeatedly shows how insects are capable of some intelligent behaviors scientists previously thought were unique to larger animals. Honeybees, for example, can count, categorize similar objects like dogs or human faces, understand same and different, and differentiate between shapes that are symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Chittka explains that body size is the single best way to predict an animal's brain size in the journal Current Biology.

"However, contrary to popular belief," he said, "we can't say that brain size predicts their capacity for intelligent behavior."

Differences in brain size among animals is extreme: A whale's brain can weigh up to 9 kg (with more than 200 billion nerve cells), and human brains vary between 1.25 kg and 1.45 kg (with an estimated 85 billion nerve cells). A honeybee's brain weighs only 1 mg and contains fewer than a million nerve cells.

Although some increases in brain size affect an animal's capability for intelligent behavior, many size differences only exist in a specific brain region. …

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