Each Octopus Arm Moves as if it Has its Own Brain

Each Octopus Arm Moves as if it Has its Own Brain

What does it take to enable an octopus to use all eight arms efficiently? Each arm may be in contact with a different substance, and they are soft and pliable, so they can bend and twist in response to whatever stimuli they receive. As a result, each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain.

Researchers recently discovered that the arms gather data and move independently or with other arms without consulting the octopus’s brain. The octopus has a central brain connected to a nerve ring that connects to each arm. In addition to the arms’ connections to the brain, a nerve connects each arm to another, located two arms away. This arrangement allows each arm to communicate directly with others and with the central brain. The arm’s connections to other arms allow rapid communication to function quickly and efficiently.

Researchers are still studying how the octopus puts all this together to move eight arms in a well-coordinated way. Roger Hanlon, a researcher with the Marine Biological Laboratory, said, “We are in that intriguing ‘mild state of confusion’ that is simultaneously perplexing and exhilarating when unexpected discoveries are revealed.”

God’s design of every form of life is amazing and offers much for science to study and learn. Our understanding of how nerves function and how the brain interprets the signals it receives from the nerves is still in a primitive stage. However, we know that each octopus arm moves as if it has its own brain, making the octopus a very complex and intelligent animal. We see God’s wisdom and creative ability displayed in every form of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Scientific American for March, 2023 pages 11-12 and the journal Current Biology