full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Cláudio Guerra: Why the octopus brain is so extraordinary

Unscramble the Blue Letters

What could ocuepstos possibly have in common with us? After all, they don't have lngus, spines, or even a plural noun we can all agree on. But what they do have is the ability to solve puzzles, learn through otaovebisrn, and even use tools, just like some other animals we know. And what makes octopus intelligence so amazing is that it comes from a biological structure completely different from ours. The 200 or so sipcees of octopuses are mlosukls belonging to the order cephalopoda, geerk for head-feet. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog. But instead of being centralized in the brain, these 500 milolin neurons are spread out in a ntreowk of interconnected ganglia organized into three basic structures. The central brain only contains about 10% of the neurons, while the two huge oitpc lobes contain about 30%. The other 60% are in the tentacles, which for humans would be like our arms having minds of their own. This is where things get even more interesting. Vertebrates like us have a rigid skteelon to support our bodies, with joints that allow us to move. But not all types of movement are allowed. You can't bend your knee backwards, or bend your forearm in the middle, for example. Cephalopods, on the other hand, have no bones at all, alwilnog them to bend their libms at any point and in any direction. So shaping their tncaletes into any one of the virtually limitless number of possible arrangements is unlike anything we are used to. Consider a spilme task, like gbraibng and eating an apple. The human brain contains a neurological map of our body. When you see the aplpe, your brain's motor center activates the appropriate meuclss, allowing you to reach out with your arm, grab it with your hand, bend your elobw joint, and bring it to your mtuoh. For an octopus, the process is quite different. Rather than a body map, the cephalopod brain has a behavior liarrby. So when an octopus sees food, its barin doesn't acvitate a specific body part, but rather a boarhaivel rsepnose to grab. As the signal travels through the network, the arm neurons pick up the message and jump into action to command the movement. As soon as the arm teouchs the food, a muscle activation wave travels all the way through the arm to its base, while the arm sends back another wave from the base to the tip. The signals meet halfway between the food and the base of the arm, letting it know to bend at that spot. What all this means is that each of an octopus's eight arms can essentially think for itself. This gives it amazing flexibility and creativity when fcanig a new situation or problem, whether its opening a bttole to reach food, escaping through a maze, moving around in a new environment, changing the texture and the color of its skin to bnled into the srenecy, or even mimicking other creatures to scare away emeenis. Cephalopods may have evolved complex brains long before our vertebrate relatives. And octopus intelligence isn't just useful for octopuses. Their radically different nervous system and autonomously tnnihkig appendages have inspired new research in developing flexible rbtoos made of soft mraiteals. And studying how intelligence can arise along such a divergent evolutionary path can help us uanndtersd more about intelligence and consciousness in greneal. Who knows what other frmos of intelligent life are possible, or how they process the world around them.

Open Cloze

What could _________ possibly have in common with us? After all, they don't have _____, spines, or even a plural noun we can all agree on. But what they do have is the ability to solve puzzles, learn through ___________, and even use tools, just like some other animals we know. And what makes octopus intelligence so amazing is that it comes from a biological structure completely different from ours. The 200 or so _______ of octopuses are ________ belonging to the order cephalopoda, _____ for head-feet. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog. But instead of being centralized in the brain, these 500 _______ neurons are spread out in a _______ of interconnected ganglia organized into three basic structures. The central brain only contains about 10% of the neurons, while the two huge _____ lobes contain about 30%. The other 60% are in the tentacles, which for humans would be like our arms having minds of their own. This is where things get even more interesting. Vertebrates like us have a rigid ________ to support our bodies, with joints that allow us to move. But not all types of movement are allowed. You can't bend your knee backwards, or bend your forearm in the middle, for example. Cephalopods, on the other hand, have no bones at all, ________ them to bend their _____ at any point and in any direction. So shaping their _________ into any one of the virtually limitless number of possible arrangements is unlike anything we are used to. Consider a ______ task, like ________ and eating an apple. The human brain contains a neurological map of our body. When you see the _____, your brain's motor center activates the appropriate _______, allowing you to reach out with your arm, grab it with your hand, bend your _____ joint, and bring it to your _____. For an octopus, the process is quite different. Rather than a body map, the cephalopod brain has a behavior _______. So when an octopus sees food, its _____ doesn't ________ a specific body part, but rather a __________ ________ to grab. As the signal travels through the network, the arm neurons pick up the message and jump into action to command the movement. As soon as the arm _______ the food, a muscle activation wave travels all the way through the arm to its base, while the arm sends back another wave from the base to the tip. The signals meet halfway between the food and the base of the arm, letting it know to bend at that spot. What all this means is that each of an octopus's eight arms can essentially think for itself. This gives it amazing flexibility and creativity when ______ a new situation or problem, whether its opening a ______ to reach food, escaping through a maze, moving around in a new environment, changing the texture and the color of its skin to _____ into the _______, or even mimicking other creatures to scare away _______. Cephalopods may have evolved complex brains long before our vertebrate relatives. And octopus intelligence isn't just useful for octopuses. Their radically different nervous system and autonomously ________ appendages have inspired new research in developing flexible ______ made of soft _________. And studying how intelligence can arise along such a divergent evolutionary path can help us __________ more about intelligence and consciousness in _______. Who knows what other _____ of intelligent life are possible, or how they process the world around them.

Solution

  1. robots
  2. general
  3. mollusks
  4. thinking
  5. limbs
  6. grabbing
  7. touches
  8. tentacles
  9. bottle
  10. mouth
  11. allowing
  12. network
  13. optic
  14. greek
  15. lungs
  16. million
  17. materials
  18. facing
  19. blend
  20. elbow
  21. octopuses
  22. activate
  23. observation
  24. species
  25. scenery
  26. forms
  27. understand
  28. response
  29. muscles
  30. library
  31. simple
  32. behavioral
  33. apple
  34. skeleton
  35. brain
  36. enemies

Original Text

What could octopuses possibly have in common with us? After all, they don't have lungs, spines, or even a plural noun we can all agree on. But what they do have is the ability to solve puzzles, learn through observation, and even use tools, just like some other animals we know. And what makes octopus intelligence so amazing is that it comes from a biological structure completely different from ours. The 200 or so species of octopuses are mollusks belonging to the order cephalopoda, Greek for head-feet. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog. But instead of being centralized in the brain, these 500 million neurons are spread out in a network of interconnected ganglia organized into three basic structures. The central brain only contains about 10% of the neurons, while the two huge optic lobes contain about 30%. The other 60% are in the tentacles, which for humans would be like our arms having minds of their own. This is where things get even more interesting. Vertebrates like us have a rigid skeleton to support our bodies, with joints that allow us to move. But not all types of movement are allowed. You can't bend your knee backwards, or bend your forearm in the middle, for example. Cephalopods, on the other hand, have no bones at all, allowing them to bend their limbs at any point and in any direction. So shaping their tentacles into any one of the virtually limitless number of possible arrangements is unlike anything we are used to. Consider a simple task, like grabbing and eating an apple. The human brain contains a neurological map of our body. When you see the apple, your brain's motor center activates the appropriate muscles, allowing you to reach out with your arm, grab it with your hand, bend your elbow joint, and bring it to your mouth. For an octopus, the process is quite different. Rather than a body map, the cephalopod brain has a behavior library. So when an octopus sees food, its brain doesn't activate a specific body part, but rather a behavioral response to grab. As the signal travels through the network, the arm neurons pick up the message and jump into action to command the movement. As soon as the arm touches the food, a muscle activation wave travels all the way through the arm to its base, while the arm sends back another wave from the base to the tip. The signals meet halfway between the food and the base of the arm, letting it know to bend at that spot. What all this means is that each of an octopus's eight arms can essentially think for itself. This gives it amazing flexibility and creativity when facing a new situation or problem, whether its opening a bottle to reach food, escaping through a maze, moving around in a new environment, changing the texture and the color of its skin to blend into the scenery, or even mimicking other creatures to scare away enemies. Cephalopods may have evolved complex brains long before our vertebrate relatives. And octopus intelligence isn't just useful for octopuses. Their radically different nervous system and autonomously thinking appendages have inspired new research in developing flexible robots made of soft materials. And studying how intelligence can arise along such a divergent evolutionary path can help us understand more about intelligence and consciousness in general. Who knows what other forms of intelligent life are possible, or how they process the world around them.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
octopus intelligence 2
nervous system 2

Important Words

  1. ability
  2. action
  3. activate
  4. activates
  5. activation
  6. agree
  7. allowed
  8. allowing
  9. amazing
  10. animals
  11. appendages
  12. apple
  13. arise
  14. arm
  15. arms
  16. arrangements
  17. autonomously
  18. base
  19. basic
  20. behavior
  21. behavioral
  22. belonging
  23. bend
  24. biological
  25. blend
  26. bodies
  27. body
  28. bones
  29. bottle
  30. brain
  31. brains
  32. bring
  33. center
  34. central
  35. centralized
  36. cephalopod
  37. cephalopoda
  38. cephalopods
  39. changing
  40. color
  41. command
  42. common
  43. completely
  44. complex
  45. consciousness
  46. creativity
  47. creatures
  48. developing
  49. direction
  50. divergent
  51. dog
  52. eating
  53. elbow
  54. enemies
  55. environment
  56. escaping
  57. essentially
  58. evolutionary
  59. evolved
  60. facing
  61. flexibility
  62. flexible
  63. food
  64. forearm
  65. forms
  66. ganglia
  67. general
  68. grab
  69. grabbing
  70. greek
  71. halfway
  72. hand
  73. heads
  74. huge
  75. human
  76. humans
  77. impressively
  78. inspired
  79. intelligence
  80. intelligent
  81. interconnected
  82. interesting
  83. joint
  84. joints
  85. jump
  86. knee
  87. large
  88. learn
  89. letting
  90. library
  91. life
  92. limbs
  93. limitless
  94. lobes
  95. long
  96. lungs
  97. map
  98. materials
  99. maze
  100. means
  101. meet
  102. message
  103. middle
  104. million
  105. mimicking
  106. minds
  107. mollusks
  108. motor
  109. mouth
  110. move
  111. movement
  112. moving
  113. muscle
  114. muscles
  115. nervous
  116. network
  117. neurological
  118. neurons
  119. noun
  120. number
  121. observation
  122. octopus
  123. octopuses
  124. opening
  125. optic
  126. order
  127. organized
  128. part
  129. path
  130. pick
  131. plural
  132. point
  133. possibly
  134. problem
  135. process
  136. puzzles
  137. radically
  138. ratio
  139. reach
  140. relatives
  141. research
  142. response
  143. rigid
  144. robots
  145. scare
  146. scenery
  147. sees
  148. sends
  149. shaping
  150. signal
  151. signals
  152. similar
  153. simple
  154. situation
  155. skeleton
  156. skin
  157. soft
  158. solve
  159. species
  160. specific
  161. spines
  162. spot
  163. spread
  164. structure
  165. structures
  166. studying
  167. support
  168. system
  169. task
  170. tentacles
  171. texture
  172. thinking
  173. tip
  174. tools
  175. touches
  176. travels
  177. types
  178. understand
  179. vertebrate
  180. vertebrates
  181. virtually
  182. wave
  183. world