Scientists study classical music loving crocodiles in MRI machine

A trio of researchers has conducted a study that would have made The Crocodile Hunter happy. The scientists are Mehdi Behroozi, Felix Ströckens, and Xavier Helluy. The team took crocodiles and put them into an MRI machine while the crocs were listening to complex sounds.

Complex sounds, in this case, mean classical music. This is the first time that a cold-blooded reptile has been studied using functional MRI. The research allows the team to determine that complex stimuli triggered activation patterns in the brain of the croc that are like patterns seen in birds and mammals.

This is interesting considering that crocodiles are among the oldest species of vertebrates have barely changed over more than 200 million years. The specific crocs that were used in the study were Nile crocodiles, among the most fearsome of all crocs. Researchers said that they had to adjust the MRI to work with the physiology of the croc.

Once inside the MRI, the team exposed the reptiles to various visual and auditory stimuli including classical music by Johann Sebastian Bach. While being exposed to that stimuli brain activity was measured. Results of the experiment found that additional brain areas are activated during exposure to complex stimuli as opposed to simple sounds.

Since the patterns seen in the crocodiles, which have minimally changed in millions of years, are like the patterns in mammals and birds the team has determined that the fundamental neuronal processing mechanisms for sensory stimuli formed at an early stage in evolution and can be traced back to a common origin in all vertebrates. The team believes that MRI technology can be used to study other species that haven't been studied in depth before.