Breakthrough in Recording Brain Waves From Freely Moving Octopuses

Octopus cyanea

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Octopuses are mollusks, a big evolutionary group to which slugs and snails additionally belong. Their advanced brains, and people of different closely-related cephalopods, like squid and cuttlefish, have developed individually from vertebrates, and so octopuses are also known as alien-like. Here, a day octopus (Octopus cyanea) poses with a Shisa, a creature from Okinawan folklore. Credit: Michael Kuba

Scientists have found out seize mind exercise in octopuses which might be awake and transferring – a breakthrough step in understanding how the mind controls their conduct.

By implanting electrodes and an information logger instantly into the creatures, scientists have achieved the outstanding accomplishment of recording mind exercise from octopuses whereas they transfer round freely.

Published on-line within the journal Current Biology on February 23, the research represents a essential step ahead in determining how octopus brains management their conduct, and will present clues to the frequent ideas wanted for intelligence and cognition to happen.

“If we want to understand how the brain works, octopuses are the perfect animal to study as a comparison to mammals. They have a large brain, an amazingly unique body, and advanced cognitive abilities that have developed completely differently from those of vertebrates,” mentioned Dr. Tamar Gutnick, first creator and former postdoctoral researcher within the Physics and Biology Unit on the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST).

The researchers recorded the mind exercise of an octopus for 12 hours. Here, the octopus is in energetic sleep, a stage through which there are fast adjustments in shade and texture, in addition to quick sucker movement. Credit: Current Biology

But measuring the brainwaves of octopuses has confirmed an actual technical problem. Unlike vertebrates, octopuses are soft-bodied, in order that they haven’t any cranium to anchor the recording tools onto, to forestall it from being eliminated.

“Octopuses have eight powerful and ultra-flexible arms, which can reach absolutely anywhere on their body,” mentioned Dr. Gutnick. “If we tried to attach wires to them, they would immediately rip if off, so we needed a way of getting the equipment completely out of their reach, by placing it under their skin.”

The researchers settled on small and light-weight knowledge loggers as the answer, which have been initially designed to trace the mind exercise of birds throughout flight. The crew tailored the gadgets to make them waterproof, however nonetheless sufficiently small to simply match contained in the octopuses. The batteries, which wanted to work in a low-air surroundings, allowed as much as 12 hours of steady recording.

Octopus cyanea on Coral Reef

The day octopus, Octopus cyanea, camouflages itself in opposition to the coral reef. Credit: Keishu Asada

The researchers selected Octopus cyanea, extra generally often known as the day octopus, as their mannequin animal, attributable to its bigger dimension. They anesthetized three octopuses and implanted a logger right into a cavity within the muscle wall of the mantle. The scientists then implanted the electrodes into an space of the octopus’ mind referred to as the vertical lobe and median superior frontal lobe, which is probably the most accessible space. This mind area can be believed to be necessary for visible studying and reminiscence, that are mind processes that Dr. Gutnick is especially taken with understanding.

Once the surgical procedure was full, the octopuses have been returned to their dwelling tank and monitored by video. After 5 minutes, the octopuses had recovered and spent the next 12 hours sleeping, consuming and transferring round their tank, as their mind exercise was recorded. The logger and electrodes have been then faraway from the octopuses, and the information was synchronized to the video.

The researchers recognized a number of distinct patterns of mind exercise, a few of which have been related in dimension and form to these seen in mammals, while others have been very long-lasting, sluggish oscillations that haven’t been described earlier than.

The researchers weren’t but in a position to hyperlink these mind exercise patterns to particular behaviors from the movies. However, this isn’t utterly stunning, Dr. Gutnick defined, as they didn’t require the animals to do particular studying duties.

“This is an area that’s associated with learning and memory, so in order to explore this circuit, we really need to do repetitive, memory tasks with the octopuses. That’s something we’re hoping to do very soon!”

The researchers additionally consider that this methodology of recording mind exercise from freely transferring octopuses can be utilized in different octopus species and could help solve questions in many other areas of octopus cognition, including how they learn, socialize, and control the movement of their body and arms.

“This is a really pivotal study, but it’s just the first step,” said Prof. Michael Kuba, who led the project at the OIST Physics and Biology Unit and now continues at the University of Naples Federico II. “Octopus are so clever, but right now, we know so little about how their brains work. This technique means we now have the ability to peer into their brain while they are doing specific tasks. That’s really exciting and powerful.”

Reference: “Recording Electrical Activity from the Brain of Behaving Octopus” by Tamar Gutnick, Andreas Neef, Andrii Cherninskyi, Fabienne Ziadi-Kunzli, Anna Di Cosmo, Hans-Peter Lipp and Michael Kuba, 23 February 2023, Current Biology.
DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4309084

The study involved an international collaboration between researchers in Japan, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, and Switzerland.