Woodpecker brain takes a big hit with every click: Study: NPR

Sam Van Wassenbergh and his team photographed this black woodpecker at Alpenzoo Innbruck, Austria, for their study.

Sam Van Wasenberg / University of Antwerp


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Sam Van Wasenberg / University of Antwerp


Sam Van Wassenbergh and his team photographed this black woodpecker at Alpenzoo Innbruck, Austria, for their study.

Sam Van Wasenberg / University of Antwerp

The woodpecker’s brain experiences a seemingly disastrous effect every time the beak meets the wood.

“When you see these birds running, hitting their heads against a tree so violently, we as humans begin to wonder how this bird can avoid getting headaches or brain damage,” he said. Sam Van WasenbergResearcher at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.

In the past, scholars were I suggested The bird’s brain is protected from influences, possibly by a skull that acts as a pillowA beak that absorbs some force, or a tongue that wraps around the brain.

But Van Wasenberg was not convinced.

“No one has explained it very well, in my opinion,” he says.

So Van Wassenbergh led a team that set out to solve the problem using high-speed video of woodpeckers in action.

“We went to four different zoos in Europe where they had woodpeckers and we recorded them at very high frame rates, while they were pecking,” he says.

Videos, part of a study published in the magazine current biology, She revealed some great details.

For example, they “close their eyes the moment they impact the wood,” says Van Wasenberg, to protect their eyes from splinters.

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The videos also showed that woodpeckers’ beaks often got stuck in wood. But they release almost instantly, thanks to the clever beak design that provides independent movement of the upper and lower beak.

What the videos don’t show is any sign that the woodpecker’s brain has somehow been dampened.

“The way we see the head’s behavior is very solid, as if you were using a hammer to hit the wood,” Van Wassenbergh says.

This means that the organ frequently suffers from deceleration that could cause a concussion in the human brain. However, the woodpecker’s brain appears unscathed, even after thousands of impacts in a single day.

This is possible because the woodpecker brain he is It’s protected — not by cushioning, says Van Wassenbergh, but by its compact size and small weight.

“An animal of a smaller size can withstand higher deceleration,” he says. “This is a biomechanical law.”

That was the idea I suggested in 2006 by Lorna Gibson, professor of biomechanical engineering at MIT. Now, this has been confirmed by Van Wassenbergh’s high-speed video.

The woodpecker’s brain is about 700 times smaller than the human brain. “That’s why even the hardest blows we’ve observed are not expected to cause a concussion,” Van Wasenberg says.

or even a headache.

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