Did you know that pigeons could do two or more tasks at the same time just like humans? You will be more surprised to know that their task completion time is sometimes equal or even lesser than humans in different situations.
This comes from the research findings of a group of biopsychologists working on behavioral studies on birds and humans. The author of this study believes that birds especially pigeons are equally good at multitasking like humans.
Researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in collaboration with University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus at Technische Universität Dresden carried out the study.
The research is published in the journal “Current Biology” and available to view online.
How do birds multitask?
Initially, scientists believed that mammalian cerebral cortex functions for cognitive ability. If you look at its anatomy, it has six cortical layers but in birds, there is no such structure. It supports the idea that the structure of the mammalian cortex cannot account for the complex cognitive functions including multitasking.
Opposite to human cortex, pallium of birds has no layer but the neurons are packed more densely than humans. If we talk about the pigeon, there are six times more nerve cells present than humans per cubic millimeter of the brain.
So the average distance between two neurons in pigeon’s body is 50% shorter as that of the human body. So the the speed of nerve cell signals is almost same in both birds and mammals. However, the researchers think that avian brain absorbs information more quickly than mammals.
The same hypothesis was tested while studying multitasking exercise on 15 humans as well as 12 pigeons. Both these groups were to stop during a task and switch to another one without wasting any time. Both groups performed this switch over of two tasks at the same time.
Why are pigeons so fast acting?
Multitasking means when someone is performing two or more tasks at the same time. It means both of these processes run simultaneously in the brain. For someone who is stopped from one task and switched to another, the amount of stress is the same, be it a mammalian or avian specie.
For the second assumption, this switching to a second task after a break makes the brain to go for a little change. When two processes work one after another, a groups of nerve cells controlling both processes send signals back and forth continuously.
Here the pigeons may have an advantage over humans because of greater nerve cell density. To be exact, pigeons were, 250 milliseconds faster than humans in this experiment.
The cognitive neuroscience research suggests that many birds including pigeons, crows, parrots are equally smart as the chimpanzees in cognitive abilities. However, the research mostly refers to to the chimpanzee as intelligent species after humans.
This study explains a partial answer to ho ofw birds multitask so well. It is precisely due to the small brain size that is loaded with dense nerve cells, all of which are capable to work together and reduce the information processing time for anything. This enables a rapid interaction between different groups of neurons and thus completing all functions at the same time.