Only to forget until something occurs to jostle the memory files? Maybe I need a brain more like that of the chickadee, expanding and contracting and adapting as needed by the season.
So the black-capped chickadees(Poecile atricapillus) are back at the feeders, and so is my memory of reading something extraordinary about the chickadee brain last year and wanting to investigate. Of all the wild birds that visit, the chickadees seem to be the most fearless and friendly. In fact, they’re often the only ones that aren’t afraid to approach even after I’ve appeared on the deck, pointing a camera at them. Frustratingly, they are also among the quickest and most reluctant to pose.
Research done by Professor Colin Saldanha, now at American University, showed that the chickadee’s brain can grow up to 30% larger during times when they need to find food for storage. The brain is expanding, adding new nerve cells, in order to help them remember the hundreds of hiding places where they’ve stored the food. Then, in the spring, the brain shrinks back to normal size, when their memories are needed less.
Another study, done by Vladamir Pradosudov at University of Nevada in Reno showed that when birds live in harsher conditions, such as Alaska, they not only find more food than those in milder climates, but they’re better at finding their caches, have better spatial memories, and have larger brains than the same species in Colorado.
I would never say that I want my brain to shrink, but wouldn’t mind being able to shed some of the mental baggage and unproductive ways of thinking that marked the past year. Out with the old, in with the new! Make room for more meshugaas!
Wishing you an open-minded, peaceful and rejuvenating New Year.