Why is the octopus brain so extraordinary?


WHAT could octopuses possibly have in common with us? After all, they do not have lungs, a spine or even the ability to talk like we do. But what they do have is the ability to solve puzzles, learn through observation, and even use tools.

And what makes octopus intelligence so amazing is that it comes from a biological structure completely different from ours.

Approximately 200 species of octopuses belong to the order of cephalopoda (Greek for “head-feet”). Those heads contain an impressively large brain, with the brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals.

An octopus has a complex nervous system, with as many neurons as that of a dog. But instead of being centralised in the brain, these 500 million neurons are spread out in a network of interconnected ganglia, organised into 3 basic structures. The central brain
only contains ~10% of the neurons, while the 2 huge optic lobes contain ~30%. The remaining 60% are in the tentacles, which for humans is like our arms having minds of their own! This is what makes it 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. Cephalopods on the other hand have no bones at all, allowing them to bend their limbs at any points and in any directions,
so shaping their tentacles into virtually limitless number of possible arrangements.

This means that each and every arms of octopus can actually “think” for itself. This gives it an amazing flexibility and creativity when facing a new situation or problem.