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"Animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent," according to Lars Chittka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary's Research Centre for Psychology and University of Cambridge colleague, Jeremy Niven. This begs the important question: what are they for?Research repeatedly shows how insects are capable of some intelligent behaviours scientists previously thought was unique to larger animals. Honeybees, for example, can count, categorise similar objects like dogs or human faces, understand 'same' and 'different', and differentiate between shapes that are symmetrical and asymmetrical. ...Differences in brain size between animals is extreme: a whale's brain can weigh up to 9 kg (with over 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 milligram and contains fewer than a million nerve cells.While some increases in brain size do affect an animal's capability for intelligent behaviour, many size differences only exist in a specific brain region. This is often seen in animals with highly developed senses (like sight or hearing) or an ability to make very precise movements. The size increase allows the brain to function in greater detail, finer resolution, higher sensitivity or greater precision: in other words, more of the same. ...This must mean that much 'advanced' thinking can actually be done with very limited neuron numbers. Computer modelling shows that even consciousness can be generated with very small neural circuits, which could in theory easily fit into an insect brain.In fact, the models suggest that counting could be achieved with only a few hundred nerve cells and only a few thousand could be enough to generate consciousness. Engineers hope that this kind of research will lead to smarter computing with the ability to recognise human facial expressions and emotions.
French doctors are puzzling over the case of 44-year-old civil servant who has led a quite normal life – but with an extraordinarily tiny brain .In a case history published in Saturday’s Lancet, doctors led by Lionel Feuillet of the Hopital de la Timone in Marseille say the father-of-two was admitted to hospital after suffering mild weakness in his left leg.Scans by computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed that the man’s cerebral cavities, called ventricles, had massively expanded.“The brain itself, meaning the grey matter and white matter, was completely crushed against the sides of the skull,” Feuillet told AFP.“The images were most unusual… the brain was virtually absent,” he said.The patient’s medical history showed that at the age of six months, he suffered hydrocephalus, also called water on the brain, and needed an operation to drain this dangerous buildup of spinal fluid.Neuropsychological testing revealed the man had an IQ of 75, with a verbal IQ of 84 and performance IQ of 70.
...44-year-old civil servant.........“The images were most unusual… the brain was virtually absent,” he said...