Crayfish, just like organisms of higher complexity, observe their environment, and then make value-based decisions- a trait that could offer new insights into human decision making.
According to a University of Maryland study, crayfish make surprisingly complex, cost-benefit calculations.
The researchers concluded that crayfish make an excellent, practical model for identifying the specific neural circuitry and neurochemistry of decision making.
They believe their study is the first to isolate individual crayfish neurons involved in value-based decisions.
Currently, there's no direct way to do this with a human brain.
"Matching individual neurons to the decision making processes in the human brain is simply impractical for now," said Jens Herberholz, the study's senior author.
"History has shown that findings made in the invertebrate nervous systems often translate to more complex organisms. It's unlikely to be exactly the same, but it can inform our understanding of the human brain, nonetheless. The basic organization of neurons and the underlying neurochemistry are similar, involving serotonin and dopamine, for example," he added.
Herberholz added that his lab's work may inform ongoing studies in rodents and primates.
"Combining the findings from different animal models is the only practical approach to work out the complexities of human decision making at the cellular level."
The experiments offered the crayfish stark decisions - a choice between finding their next meal and becoming a meal for an apparent predator.
In deciding on a course of action, they carefully weighed the risk of attack against the expected reward, said Herberholz.
"We have now shown that crayfish, similar to organisms of higher complexity, integrate different sensory stimuli that are present in their environment, and they select a behavioural output according to the current values for each choice," he added.
The study will be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)