Scientists Successfully Record Brain Activity from Freely Moving Octopuses

In a groundbreaking study, scientists have successfully recorded brain activity from freely moving octopuses for the first time. Published in Current Biology on February 23, the research is a critical step towards understanding how the brain controls behavior in these remarkable animals, and could provide clues to the common principles needed for intelligence and cognition to occur.[0]

Many neurons are present in the octopus’ brain, which is divided into several distinct lobes. The purpose of these lobes is mainly deduced from the outcomes of lesioning experiments. By implanting electrodes, researchers in other species can link brain activity to behavior by directly correlating electrical activity with observed animal behavior.[0]

The researchers chose Octopus cyanea, more commonly known as the day octopus, as their model animal due to its larger size.[1] The researchers anesthetized three octopuses and implanted a logger into a cavity in the muscle wall of the mantle.[1] They also implanted electrodes into an area of the brain called the vertical lobe and median superior frontal lobe, which is the most accessible area.[1] This brain region is also believed to be important for visual learning and memory.[0]

The team adapted small and lightweight data loggers, originally designed to track the brain activity of birds during flight, to be waterproof and compact enough to slip inside the octopuses easily.[1] Up to 12 hours of continuous recording could be done with the batteries, which had to operate in a low-air condition.[1]

Once the operation was finished, the octopuses were brought back to their original tank and observed via video.[1] After a period of five minutes, the octopuses had regained their strength, and spent the next 12 hours sleeping, consuming food, and swimming about, while scientists monitored their neurological activity.[1] Once the logger and electrodes had been taken off the octopuses, the data was synced to the video.[2]

The researchers discovered various unique brain activity patterns, some of which were akin to those observed in mammals, yet others were slow and sustained oscillations that have not been reported before.[2] A new study, featured in Current Biology, has revealed new insights into their behavior, which could offer hints on the fundamentals of intelligence and cognition.[1]

Prof. Michael Kuba, who spearheaded the project at the OIST Physics and Biology Unit and now resides at the University of Naples Federico II, declared that, “This is a really pivotal study, but it’s just the first step,”[1]

0. “Scientists Record First-Ever Brain Waves From Freely Moving Octopuses” Neuroscience News, 23 Feb. 2023,

1. “What do octopuses think about? Scientists are finally seeing their mysterious brain waves” Study Finds, 23 Feb. 2023,

2. “Scientists have successfully recorded brain activity from freely moving octopuses” Tech Explorist, 25 Feb. 2023,

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