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Octopus Cognition

We are joined by Tamar Gutnick, a visiting professor at the University of Naples Federico II, Napoli, Italy. She studies the octopus nervous system and their behavior, focusing on cognition and learning behaviors.

Tamar gave a background to the kind of research she does — lab research. She discussed some challenges with observing octopuses in the lab. She discussed some patterns observed by the octopus lifestyle in a controlled setting.

Tamar discussed what they know about octopus intelligence. She discussed the octopus nervous system and why they are unique compared to other animals. She discussed how they measure the behavior of octopuses using a video recording and a logger to track brain activity.

Tamar Gutnick

Tamar’s research focuses on a comparative approach to the study of cognition in a variety of mostly non-model species, both cephalopods and vertebrates. She specializes in multi-sensory learning, brain activity and behavior in octopus and other cephalopods. In her Masters and Phd, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she studied the interaction between the peripheral and central nervous systems of octopuses using specially designed behavioral tasks. For the past 15 years she has also collaborated with the Vienna Zoo, where she had the opportunity to work on both enrichment and scientific experiments with a much wider variety of species. Among the research in the Vienna Zoo, were experiments that showed the existence of social learning in the cartilaginous fish freshwater stingrays, and experiments that described color discrimination learning and up to 9 year long term memory in giant tortoises. She’s an unintentional expert in raising a wide variety of cephalopods and designing and building saltwater systems. In some of her most recent work she developed a method for recording brain activity from untethered, freely behaving octopuses.