Sunday, August 19, 2007

More on Brains - The Woodpecker Factor

Question: How is it possible for woodpeckers to peck so hard without getting brain damage?

Answer: This has been the subject of neurological research more than 20 years ago (The Lancet, 28 February 1976, p 454, Archives of Neurology, 1979, vol 36, p 370).

Shock waves are transmitted less readily in the woodpecker's head than in a human's because the former has a narrow space between the skull and the brain, with very little fluid, and the woodpecker's brain is packed tightly by dense yet spongy bone which buffers the force to the brain. Additionally, some of the muscles in the woodpecker's head contract, which helps to absorb and distribute the shock. Structures from the base of the tongue extend round the brain and may also absorb shocks.

Source: New Scientist