Technology We finally managed to record the brain waves of octopuses

We finally managed to record the brain waves of octopuses

What do octopuses think about? The question has long fascinated neuroscientists: this species is both so intelligent and so different. For the first time, we have succeeded in inserting electrodes into an individual. And the 12 hour recording shows that yes, this species is really developing a different kind of cognition.

The science post of the weekend with Hervé Poirier, editor-in-chief at the magazine Epsiloon, leans on a joyful information. We managed to record the brain waves of an octopus.

franceinfo: So this news is both a hell of a performance and a hell of a promise. Explain to us.

Herve Poirier: This recording takes us for the first time into the most fascinating brain on the planet – outside of ours perhaps. Because an octopus can establish complex social interactions, organize underwater cities, decorate the entrance to its lair with sea anemones, hide in nutshells, open a jar.

She is even able to learn how to handle a tool, simply by watching a video tutorial intended for humans, a researcher told us, flabbergasted. And all this with 150 times fewer neurons than us, divided into nine brains, a central one, and one for each arm. But, yes, for the first time, we managed to record the functioning of this fantastic organ!

Why couldn’t we get there so far?

For a simple reason: the octopus has no hard external structure on which to anchor equipment. And anyway, she systematically removes everything that is attached to her body with her very nimble arms. But an international team of biologists found the solution.

They anesthetized three specimens that live in captivity, implanted an electroencephalogram recorder, originally dedicated to migrating birds, under their skin, they glued it to the muscular wall that surrounds the brain, and immersed the electrodes in one of the lobes, which they think is dedicated to learning and memory.

Enough to record the neuronal activity of an octopus for 12 hours, synchronized with an HD video of its behavior. A great first!

So what ? What is the octopus thinking?

Well, as the researchers acknowledge, it’s a bit early to tell… The device works, classic neural activity dynamics have been identified, but the researchers could not link these brain activities to behaviors or specific tasks – that’s what they want to do now.

They still detected a very strange signal, slow, large, and very long oscillations, which had never been described before in any brain. A typical octopus thought? To have. The exploration has only just begun. Like an encounter of the third type, with extra-terrestrial intelligence.

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