Scientists have proved you only need two brain cells to be properly decisive - while snails' decision making abilities could help us train robots

 
Emma Haslett
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Snails' behaviour helped scientists work out how people make decisions (Source: Getty)

Consider yourself the indecisive type? Consider again: scientists have just proved it only takes two brain cells to make a good decisions - information which could help us to design robots.

The scientists, from the University of Sussex, studied the brain activity of freshwater snails as they chose which direction to go in in pursuit of a piece of lettuce.

They discovered a circuit comprising of just two neurons can make "sophisticated" decisions: one, a "controller" neuron, letting the snail's brain know whether potential food is present, and a second neuron transmitting signals which tell the snail's brain what its "motivational state" is - ie. whether it's hungry or not.

Read more: Could you be making better decisions?

Professor George Kemenes, who led the study, said the study could help scientists design the "brains" of robots, allowing them to use the fewest possible components to help them perform complex tasks.

"What goes on in our brains when we make complex behavioural decisions and carry them out is poorly understood," he added.

“Our study reveals for the first-time how just two neurons can create a mechanism in an animal’s brain which drives and optimizes complex decision making tasks. It also shows how this system helps to manage how much energy they use once they have made a decision."

Last year scientist Dame Athene Donald said parents could make their children better decision makers by encouraging them to focus on maths and science at school.

"Citizens need to be empowered to make good decisions in their private lives - be it about vaccinations, mobile phone masts or climate change," she said

"And the best way to prepare a young person for making these wise choices is by ensuring they are interested in, and comfortable with, the fields of maths and science." Although, as long as they have two brain cells, perhaps that doesn't matter...

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