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Pigeons Are Better Than People at Multitasking: Study

Web Desk(September 29, 2017): Despite our gadgets and flexible attention spans, humans still haven’t bested the multitasking abilities of pigeons.

According to a new study pigeons are able to switch their attention from one task to another as efficiently  and sometimes more efficiently than people.

Researchers believe the birds’ higher neuronal density accounts for their multitasking advantage.

Birds don’t have a layered cerebral cortex, yet they are still able to multitask. “That means the structure of the mammalian cortex cannot be decisive for complex cognitive functions such as multitasking,” Letzner said.

Pigeons haves six times more nerve cells per cubic millimeter of brain tissue. Thus, the gaps between neurons in the pigeon brain are significantly shorter than those found in the human brain.

The first tests trigger true multitasking. During the immediate transition, the brain is simultaneously processing two tasks, the task of ceasing focus on one exercise and the task of refocusing on another. The second test triggers a ping pong-like phenomenon of back-and-forth brain signaling.

Pigeons and humans were equally fast at executing the switch during the first test, but birds were faster at switching tasks during the second tests.

“Researchers in the field of cognitive neuroscience have been wondering for a long time how it was possible that some birds, such as crows or parrots, are smart enough to rival chimpanzees in terms of cognitive abilities, despite their small brains and their lack of a cortex,” said Letzner.

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