Scientists found that additional brain areas activated in crocodiles when they were exposed to complex stimuli such as classical music.
Researchers used an MRI to record the brain of a Nile crocodile – one of the few surviving species that share a common ancestor with dinosaurs – as it listened to classical music.
An international research team led by the Department of Biopsychology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany investigated what happens in a crocodile’s brain when it hears complex sounds.
They were able to determine that complex stimuli triggered activation patterns in the crocodile’s brain that are similar to those in birds and mammals – a deep insight into evolution.
Crocodiles are the most ancient species of vertebrates and have barely changed over the course of 200 million years, linking them closely to dinosaurs.
‘Analyses of crocodile brains thus provide deep insights into the evolution of the nervous system in mammals and may help us understand at which point certain brain structures and behaviors associated therewith were formed,’ said head researcher Felix Ströckens.
The researchers then compared the results from the reptile to images from other mammals.
‘In the first step, we had to overcome a number of technical obstacles,’ said researcher Mehdi Behroozi.
‘For example, we had to adjust the scanner to the crocodile’s physiology, which differs massively from that of mammals in several aspects.’
They found that additional brain areas are activated during exposure to complex stimuli such as classical music, as opposed to exposure to simple sounds.
The processing patterns strongly resemble the patterns identified in mammals and birds in similar studies.
From the new study, researchers can now assume that processing patterns formed at an early evolutionary stage and can be traced back to the same origins in all vertebrates, including dinosaurs.