Science magazine shares an anatomical survey of birds’ brains that reveals details of the brain section that appears to function like our cerebral cortex – giving birds a similar sense of “self” to us humans:
Mammals can be very smart. They also have a brain with a cortex. It has thus often been assumed that the advanced cognitive skills of mammals are closely related to the evolution of the cerebral cortex. However, birds can also be very smart, and several bird species show amazing cognitive abilities. Although birds lack a cerebral cortex, they do have pallium, and this is considered to be analogous, if not homologous, to the cerebral cortex. An outstanding feature of the mammalian cortex is its layered architecture. In a detailed anatomical study of the bird pallium, Stacho et al. describe a similarly layered architecture. Despite the nuclear organization of the bird pallium, it has a cyto-architectonic organization that is reminiscent of the mammalian cortex.
Our study reveals a hitherto unknown neuroarchitecture of the avian sensory forebrain that is composed of iteratively organized canonical circuits within tangentially organized lamina-like and orthogonally positioned column-like entities. Our findings suggest that it is likely that an ancient microcircuit that already existed in the last common stem amniote might have been evolutionarily conserved and partly modified in birds and mammals.