Pacific Northwest
Paige Gedicke

The many brains of an octopus

An octopus has two-thirds of its brain cells in its suckers — suction cups along its arms that help in catching prey and moving around. This enables the octopus to process information locally and allows the arms to work independent of the brain.

Researchers at the Gire Lab at the UW are attempting to understand the unique process of decision making in octopuses. Each sucker behaves as if it has its own brain.

For example, once a task — say, “grasping” — is selected, the suckers analyze mechanical and chemical information from the environment and decide on the specifics of the arm movement, like where to bend and by how much.

“The brain will tell the arm that it needs to bend, and suckers share information from the environment with each other to decide on exactly where the arm should bend,” David Gire, an assistant professor in the department of psychology, said.

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