In a new study, the neuroscientists at Alberta has identified a neural circuit that is responsible for intelligence in birds. The study is a typical example of convergent evolution between primates and birds and forms the basis for insights in the human intelligence. The research is led by Christina Gutierrez, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology. A major area of the brain that plays a major role in primate intelligence is the Protine nuclei. The structure is responsible for the transfer of information between two regions of the brain called cortex and cerebellum. It is responsible for the intelligence and sophisticated behaviour. In humans and Primates, the pontine nuclei are larger compared to other mammals. So, this is the reason for them to have higher cognitive abilities.
When it comes to birds, they have a structure similar to Pontine nuclei dubbed median spiriform nucleus(SpM). It does the same function similar to Pontine nuclei and transfers the information between the cortex and cerebellum. It is important for the execution and planning of sophisticated behaviours.
Scientists studied the brains of birds using samples from 98 of them that ranged from chickens and waterfowls to parrots and owls. The researchers studied the relative size of median spiriform nuclei to the brain size in all the birds. They found that in the relative size of median protine nuclei is comparatively larger compared to other birds. The relative size of SpM is four to five times larger than other birds. This is another example of convergence between primates and parrots. Further, the research team plans to study the SpM closely to understand the type of information that is processed. The research could offer new insights to study about how the human brains function.