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The Raven, The Most Intelligent Bird On The Planet, Is Now Seriously Studied By Neuroscience

Crows have had a meaning linked to death and darkness throughout history. According to the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, this bird had a mythical status, as many cultures saw it as a mediator between life and death. On the other hand, in the well-known narrative poem by Edgar Allan Poe, the raven is a kind of supernatural messenger with a clear symbolism of everlasting darkness.


But science, now perhaps more than ever, has claimed the raven as more than a symbol of darkness. From many experiments and scientific research - and even with simple daily observation exercises - it has been proven that the crow is one of the most intelligent birds in the world, and therefore an innovative and creative being, capable of using grammar to his favor and of feeling emotions as deep as we do, as respect or thanks (remember the case of the crows that gave gifts to the girl who fed them ).

Even, as noted in a study published in Animal Behavior , crows may not forgive those who offend them .

Despite all this, neuroscience had ruled out crows as subjects of study because they have no neocortex: the structure where humans and other mammals develop cognitive abilities, and that is even said to be where our consciousness is . However, crows develop those abilities in other ways, and neuroscience has realized how much you can learn from crows and their brains.

The brain of the crow: with more neurons than that of primates
Having deferred from mammals more than 300 million years ago, bird brains have developed differently: instead of a six-layer cortex full of neurons, birds have circuits of packed neurons called nuclei. Therefore, although humans and animals share a certain cerebral architecture, studying intelligence in a different structure like that of crows can give us clues about how intelligence develops.

In 2013, Andreas Nieder, a neuroscientist at the University of Tübingen, studied the neuronal activity of crows during the problem-solving process, in the part of the brain that functions as the mammalian neocortex and is responsible for making decisions, short-term memory and planning. Upon examining this, Nieder's team discovered that the neuronal activity in the NCL nucleus (nidopallium caudolaterale) of a crow is the same as in the primate cortex . In addition, other Nieder studies have proven the cognitive richness of crow brains, and how the way in which their neurons are distributed in circuits makes them have twice as many neurons as primates according to their mass.

Nieder's studies have perhaps led to more questions than answers. For now, it seems that neurons play a very important role in the mental processes of corvids, mammals and humans, and that beyond the architecture of the brain, it has evolved in each species without changing the neuronal dynamics too much, that seem to be the fundamentals.

Crows have even developed capabilities that other mammals have not. According to Dr. John Marzluff, crows can work with each of their hemispheres of the brain separately, which offers an advantage when processing information, for example, from what they see.

There seems to be much more to learn from crows in terms of intelligence and the brain. And who knows? Perhaps these studies also lead to portentous findings about consciousness, because if crows are even able to plan ahead, they may be more aware of what we believe.

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