Are birds brainier than us?

Those who’ve seen videos of birds successfully solving puzzles that even young children can’t — yet — solve are not surprised when researchers tell them that birds are a great deal more intelligent than they’ve been given credit for might, nevertheless, be surprised learn that they have a great deal more neurons than we have on a per cubic centimetre basis.

In short, their neurons are much smaller than ours and more closely packed together. They restrict their connections to only their closest neighbours and only a small proportion of them grow long axons that can send messages to further parts of their brains. This recent discovery by Suzana Herculano-Houzel of Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, besides being interesting in its own right will be useful to those who are attempting to design computers with human-like intelligence.

In any case, the knowledge of bird-like brains may be useful when we get onto making aircraft with flapping wings — much more efficient than fixed-wing aircraft — and also finally have the courage to dispnse entirely with a human pilot.

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