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Curr Biol. 2011 Mar 22;21(6):460-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.01.052.

Octopus vulgaris uses visual information to determine the location of its arm.

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Department of Neurobiology, Institute of Life Sciences, Edmond J. Safra Campus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel.


Octopuses are intelligent, soft-bodied animals with keen senses that perform reliably in a variety of visual and tactile learning tasks. However, researchers have found them disappointing in that they consistently fail in operant tasks that require them to combine central nervous system reward information with visual and peripheral knowledge of the location of their arms. Wells claimed that in order to filter and integrate an abundance of multisensory inputs that might inform the animal of the position of a single arm, octopuses would need an exceptional computing mechanism, and "There is no evidence that such a system exists in Octopus, or in any other soft bodied animal." Recent electrophysiological experiments, which found no clear somatotopic organization in the higher motor centers, support this claim. We developed a three-choice maze that required an octopus to use a single arm to reach a visually marked goal compartment. Using this operant task, we show for the first time that Octopus vulgaris is capable of guiding a single arm in a complex movement to a location. Thus, we claim that octopuses can combine peripheral arm location information with visual input to control goal-directed complex movements.

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