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Octopus Brains
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PZ Meyers blogs about them.

A couple of points I found especially interesting:

It was around then that I was developing that peculiar coleoideal fascination a few of the readers here might have noticed—it was born out of an appreciation of comparative biology and the recognition that cephalopods represented a lineage that independently acquired a large brain and complex behavior from the vertebrates. To understand ourselves, we must embrace the alien.

Damn good point. We've got a great line of study for very intelligent creatures that evolved independently of vertebrates. One very interesting comparison:

They also exhibit a microstructure of a sort we see over and over again in the vertebrate brain: a matrix of parallel fibers produced by many small cells, a set of input fibers (the MSF tract) crossing them orthogonally, and a small set of large output neurons upon which all this arrayed activity converges.

That sounds a lot like cortical minicolumns, which are a microstructure of 80-100 neurons that seem to form the underlying structure of the cortex in mammals, from mice to people. I've been more and more interested in studying this structure, which seems to be the brain's answer to a general computational structure (as opposed to the inner and older regions of the brain...the more instinctual or hard-wired parts). I'd like to work on simulations of these types of structures, and honestly I'd never considered that similar structures might have arisen independently along separate lines. I guess it's time to read more about octopus brains.

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