Dragonflies lack humans’ big brains, but they still get the job done, according to new research that suggests that these insects have brain cells capable of feats previously seen only in primates.

Specifically, the dragonflies can screen out useless visual information to focus on a target, a process called selective attention. The new study, published Dec. 20 in the journal Current Biology, is the first to find brain cells devoted to selective attention in an invertebrate animal.

Selective attention is crucial for responding to one stimulus among the dozens of distractions that clamor for notice at any given time, said Steven Wiederman of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“Imagine a tennis player having to pick out a small ball from the crowd when it’s traveling at almost 200 kilometers an hour,” Wiederman said in a statement. “You need selective attention in order to hit that ball back into play.”

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