Woodpeckers peck on trees to feed on insects and sap, to build cavity nests and to drum during courtship. Measurements by a group of neurologists in the 1970s, using high speed video, indicate that woodpeckers can tolerate remarkably high decelerations on impact: up to 1500g, much higher than the level of 100g that causes brain injury in humans. How do their brains avoid injury during impact? In this talk, I will show the 20 minute video Built to Peck, based on my study of how woodpeckers avoid brain injury. I will also discuss alternative theories of woodpecker pecking.
Also see: YouTube video series “Built to Peck: How Woodpeckers Avoid Brain Injury”
Dr. Lorna Gibson is the Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Her research interests focus on the mechanics of natural materials such as wood, leaves, and bamboo and medical materials such as trabecular bone and tissue engineering scaffolds. She was recently named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT’s top award for undergraduate teaching. She has served as Chair of the Faculty and Associate Provost at MIT. She is also a birder.