Octopuses Can Move Their Arms and Suckers without Any Brain Signals

Created differently from other Earthly organisms, a new study has found that the incredible octopus can operate its suckers and arms without brain signals.

Octopuses Can Move Their Arms and Suckers without Any Brain Signals
Giant Pacific Octopus Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

The eight-armed cephalopods, better known as octopuses, can move and operate their arms and suckers independently from any signal sent from their brains. 

Research led by neuroscientist David Gire of the University of Washington in the US has used models in order to come to this new and fascinating discovery. 

Different to vertebrates with their central nervous system where information if from the top down, octopuses' neurons are spread throughout their bodies.

These scientists have now proven that these neurons make decisions independently from the brain. 

Gire said, "One of the big picture questions we have is just how a distributed nervous system would work, especially when it's trying to do something complicated, like move through fluid and find food on a complex ocean floor."

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Gire and his team observed Giant Pacific octopuses and East Pacific red octopuses for their research. These octopuses house 500 million neurons, of which around 350 million neurons are placed in the arms.

Octopuses Can Move Their Arms and Suckers without Any Brain Signals
Giant Pacific Octopus. Source: Dominic Sivitilli/American Geophysical Association

Octopus, neurons, and aliens

Here's what the team discovered, "The octopuses' arms have a neural ring that bypasses the brain, and so the arms can send information to each other without the brain being aware of it," according to behavioral neuroscientist Dominic Sivitilli of the University of Washington. 

This means the brain of octopuses may not always be aware of where the arms are, but the arms know where and what they're doing and coordinate to work together. Quite a trick.

The researchers observed the octopuses' reactions to a number of objects, such as cinder blocks, rocks, Lego bricks, and puzzle mazes with some goodies inside, all while filming them. 

They also used behavioral tracking and neural recording techniques as the octopuses moved around. 

They found out that while the arms and suckers moved around their environment, the brain didn't have to do a thing. 

This falls in line with previous research, which discovered that octopuses' arms forage and move independently of the brain, but that they remain responsive even when part of them is being distracted from another animal attack, for example. 

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With their incredible and interesting ways of surviving in the wild, octopuses can be likened to sci-fi aliens.

Some even go so far as to say that it's important to understand and observe octopuses as they may give us some insight into alien intelligence if they ever decide to grace us with their presence. 

Sivitilli said, "It's an alternative model for intelligence, it gives us an understanding as to the diversity of cognition in the world, and perhaps the Universe."

From the bottom of the seas, we may be able to better understand life up in space.

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