Scientists discover how just two neurons can drive complex decision making in molluscs on the hunt for food.
Scientists have discovered that snails solve complex decisions using just two brain cells, in a discovery that could help engineers develop energy efficient robots.
By attaching electrodes to the brain circuitry of freshwater snails that were on the hunt for food, researchers learned the molluscs used only two neurons when they found a tasty lettuce.
Scientists discovered that snails used controller and motivator neurons to feed back information to each other to decide whether or not to eat.
The first brain cell let it know it had discovered food and the second cell decided whether it was hungry.
But if no food was in front of the snail this part of its brain circuitry shut down, saving energy.
University of Sussex Professor George Kemenes, who led the research, said “What goes on in our brains when we make complex behavioural decisions and carry them out is poorly understood.
“Our study reveals for the first time how just two neurons can create a mechanism in an animal’s brain which drives and optimises complex decision-making tasks.
“It also shows how this system helps to manage how much energy they use once they have made a decision.
“Our findings can help scientists to identify other core neuronal systems which underlie similar decision-making processes.
“This will eventually help us design the ‘brains’ of robots based on the principle of using the fewest possible components necessary to perform complex tasks.”