"The mind is a compact, multiply connected thought mass with internal connections of the most intimate kind. It grows continuously as new thought masses enter it, and this is the means by which it continues to develop."

Bernhard Riemann On Psychology and Metaphysics ca. 1860

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Friday, June 11, 2010

A Single Neuron in the Brain of an Insect Is Smarter Than an Artificial Intelligence Theorist

Here's some heartening news: (highlighting for emphasis is mine)


Tiny insect brains capable of huge feats

A male hoverfly, Eristalis, attempting to woo a female (feeding from the flower) with his impressively controlled hovering flight. The flies use visual motion to stabilise and control their flight and to maintain their distance from nearby objects. Photo by Doekele Stavenga.
A male hoverfly, Eristalis, attempting to woo a female (feeding from the flower) with his impressively controlled hovering flight. The flies use visual motion to stabilise and control their flight and to maintain their distance from nearby objects. Photo by Doekele Stavenga.
Full Image (71.48K)

Friday, 11 June 2010
Insects may have tiny brains the size of a pinhead, but the latest research from the University of Adelaide shows just how clever they really are.
For the first time, researchers from the University's Discipline of Physiology have worked out how insects judge the speed of moving objects.
It appears that insect brain cells have additional mechanisms which can calculate how to make a controlled landing on a flower or reach a food source. This ability only works in a natural setting.
In a paper published in the international journal Current Biology, lead author David O'Carroll says insects have well identified brain cells dedicated to analysing visual motion, which are very similar to humans.
"It was previously not understood how a tiny insect brain could use multiple brain pathways to judge motion," Associate Professor O'Carroll says.
"We have known for many years that they can estimate the direction of moving objects but until now we have not known how they judge speed like other animals, including humans.
"It appears they take into account different light patterns in nature, such as a foggy morning or a sunny day, and their brain cells adapt accordingly.
"This mechanism in their brain enables them to distinguish moving objects in a wide variety of natural settings. It also highlights the fact that single neurons can exhibit extremely complex behaviour."

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