Despite the strong biomechanical protection, the brain of woodpeckers, apparently still feeling some consequences for their shock work.

Black woodpecker, or zhelna. (Photo: Matti Leikkanen /

Karolinska melanerpes. (Photo: ragtops2000 / ‹

From the constant pounding on the trees, woodpeckers inevitably would happen a concussion, if not a number of protective devices. Due to the special structure of the head and bones of the skull, only a small part (0.3 per cent) energy from the impact load acts directly on the brain, and the rest is distributed throughout the body. However, as found by researchers from Boston University, is not to say that woodpeckers peck without consequences.

A concussion can be seen by the characteristic molecular features: in nervous tissue appear protein deposits showing regular traumatic stress . For the first time the brain of woodpeckers reviewed such molecular characteristics is still 1976, and no signs of injuries, they did not find. The work is highly inspired of biologists who began to actively study the biomechanics of woodpeckers and their adaptation to this kind of lifestyle.

However, as writes portal Science methods with which at that time was to explore the brain, was not perfect, and it is possible that while in the brains of woodpeckers, something not noticed. And now George Farah (George Farah) and his colleagues wanted to see whether the woodpeckers head is all as good as one might think. For the analysis took samples of brain tissue of several species of woodpeckers and compared them with samples taken from the grackles that no trees are hollow.

As a result, in eight out of ten matlovich samples were able to detect protein deposits; and they were especially numerous in the anterior part of the brain, where they accumulate injuries in humans. The grackles are no suspicious protein deposits was not. The authors suspect that it is a protein Tau, which accumulates in nervous tissue during traumatic encephalopathy (at the same time it is impossible not to remember that the accumulation of protein Tau are considered one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease).

Samples of brain decided to test it on Tau. However, with seven samples, the method did not work at all – that is, it was impossible to say, Tau or Tau. But of the remaining three, with whom the method worked, the two woodpeckers were the protein Tau. The complete results of the experiments published in PLoS ONE.

We can assume that accumulation of Tau somehow affect the well-being of woodpeckers. But so far this remains only a hypothesis: it is not necessary that the protein that was able to see evidence of some pathological processes.

By itself, the Tau need the neurons to maintain their structure, but with injuries he goes out of the cell and forms a notorious congestion. That is, on the one hand, woodpeckers – at least some – the brain still feels some effects, on the other hand, their anatomical crush-proof tricks still play a role. To learn suffer if the woodpeckers head, you need to carefully map their behaviour with the state of the brain.