Human and Insect Brains are More Alike than You Think

A University of Arizona Neuroscience Professor, Nicholas Strausfeld, and Frank Hirth of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, are teaming up to find commonalities between the brains of insects and humans.  And what they are finding is not only fascinating but has also introduced an entirely new way in which humans can understand their own behavior in relation to some of the least evolutionarily advanced species of animals on the planet.  It seems that all of nature’s products are related in ways that are far more patent than we are used to thinking.

For example, the decision-making centers in the brains of both insects and humans show remarkable similarities, not only in structure, but also in the behavior that such structures are responsible for producing.  Insect and human brains contain what are referred to as central regions.  In insects the central region is known as the “central complex;” in humans it is the “basal ganglia.”  And damage to these areas of the brain in each of these organisms also, in turn, produce similar behavioral deficits in these organisms.

In humans damage to the basal ganglia produces abnormal behavior demonstrative of schizophrenia, autism, psychosis, sleep disturbances, alzheimer’s, and overall memory deficits, attention deficits, and general neurodegeneration.  Amazingly, the same brain region in insects, the central complex, shows similar deficits after being damaged.

These scientists think that this similarity in brain structure and the behavior originating from these structures is a clear indication that both humans and some insects are genetically programmed in a near identical way.  So go easy on our brothers and sisters with numerous legs, wings, and beady eyes because they suffer the same problems many of our own handicapped suffer.

How does knowing that our brains are remarkably similar to insect brains make you feel? DO you find it strange that we are much more similar to these tiny creatures than we’d previously believed?

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