News Detail

The work of Dominic Sivitilli and David Gire on octopus intelligence is featured in a recent UW Daily article.

Armed and intelligent: An exploration into the neural network of octopuses

By Dave Berndtson Contributing writer

Humanity has long looked to the stars in search of intelligent life different from our own, but over the past several years, a team of UW researchers has turned their focus seaward toward a more earthly being: the octopus.

The way an octopus gathers, processes, and responds to information from the world around them is a function of a nervous system structure that evolved much differently than the structure found in humans, Dominic Sivitilli, a behavioral neuroscience and astrobiology Ph.D. student and researcher with principal investigator David Gire, explained.

“There really is this very ancient evolutionary path that led to this very different kind of intelligence,” Sivitilli said. "their entire psychology evolved separately from us, and while we had a common ancestor with a nervous system, the architecture of our nervous systems have evolved separately since then."

While humans process the environment around them using their centrally located brain, octopuses understand the world around them mostly through their arms and suckers. 

Those arms and suckers are loaded with about two-thirds of the animal’s total neurons, resulting in an expansive neural network that allows arms, and even suckers, to operate independently from one another and from the central brain.

For researchers, the question emerges: How do the arms coordinate information or not get entangled responding to different stimuli? 

Read the entire article here.