Bird Brains

on May 22, 2010

If someone calls you a bird brain, it may not be completely wrong to respond, “that’s right!”

Despite the differences in avian and mammalian brains, a new study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hebrew University has revealed an astonishing similarity in mammals’ and birds’ mental learning circuits.

To begin, the scientists recorded electrical activity from the neurons of young zebra finches as the birds sang. The team then analyzed the results, identifying two separate types of neurons that displayed different firing patterns during the recording. Next, the researchers compared the finch brain recordings with recordings taken from monkeys, discovering a close similarity in the patterns. They also recognized that one of the types of bird neurons produced the same connections as one in the monkey recordings.

“Our results strongly suggest that the same brain circuits underlie learning in birds and mammals, despite the superficial differences of anatomy,” explained MIT cognitive scientist Jesse Goldberg. “This circuit must have evolved at least 300 million years ago, before birds and mammals diverged.”

For an evolutionist, such similarity must be the result of evolution—either due to common ancestry or so-called “convergent” evolution, when two species considered unrelated are revealed to have an astonishing similarity. Yet, each explanation is problematic. In the former scenario, how could such complex features have evolved so “early” in evolutionary history? In the latter scenario, what are the odds that such complex features evolved not only once, but twice? For evolutionists, such conclusions are necessary because evolution is seen as the only possible explanation. For creationists, however, the complex similarities across life-forms that are very different from each other is yet more evidence of God’s very intelligent use of common design features in unrelated distinct kinds of creatures.

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