Knock, knock: what happens in woodpecker brains

Knock, knock: what happens in woodpecker brains

However, scientists do not rule out the possibility that the woodpecker’s proteins have a protective function. "They will still be there when the knocking damages their brains?" asked peter cummings, one of the researchers from boston university involved in the project. The study is published in the magazine "plos one".

Until now, the robust blades of the birds were considered an example of effective protection against collision and even helped in the development of protective helmets. Strangely, however, no one has yet checked to see if there is actually any damage to the woodpeckers’ brains, says cummings. When knocked, the bird’s head is subjected to immense forces – many times greater than those that cause brain shuttering in humans.

Scientists have now examined wafer-thin slices of the brains of the pine woodpecker, the smallest north american woodpecker species. Compared to the dissected brains of red-shouldered starlings, however, the brains of the woodpeckers showed significantly more so-called tau proteins. These proteins normally protect the nerve processes (axons). However, if they accumulate in the ubermab, which is the case after brain damage, they damage nerve function in humans.

Researchers suspect that the dew proteins in woodpeckers, unlike in humans, have a protective function. In this case, they could possibly even provide clues to help people with neurodegenerative diseases.

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