Scientists: Sheep are much smarter than previously thought


23/02/2011

Scientists from the University of Cambridge have discovered that sheep are much more intelligent than was previously assumed. Despite the fact that sheep have the same size of the brain, like other highly developed animals are historically perceived as dumb animals and is therefore not considered suitable models for the study of diseases that affect learning and memory.

However, a new analysis published recently in the journal PLoS ONE, shows that the sheep are actually smarter than before thought. Researchers have high hopes that these animals will prove its use in research on diseases that disrupt mental capacity of patients, such as Huntington’s disease (HD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

"The new line of genetically modified sheep reared by researchers in New Zealand and Australia, which is present in the body of the defective gene HD, gave us some unique opportunities to explore ways to treat the mental illness" - said Professor Jenny Morton (Jenny Morton), a researcher at the University of Cambridge, specializing on HD. "However, if we are going to test the mental activity of the gene in sheep HD, first, we need to understand how the brain works normal healthy sheep."

Scientists have proposed a series of different tests such as those used for the estimation of mental impairment in people suffering from HD. Experiments involving sheep concluded that the animals have to choose between objects of different colors and shapes to food as a stimulus. For example, in the first and easiest test sheep were presented two buckets: blue, containing food and an empty yellow. After a few test animals were automatically to the blue block.

Prior research has shown that sheep have a good memory for faces. This analysis shows that they also can distinguish color and shape as the individual measurements.

"Sheep are very docile during the test," - said Professor Jenny Morton, who conducted the analysis, being a senior fellow of the Royal Society Leverhulm. "They have a nice location, so you can use them in such experiments." The next stage of research should be to test the sheep with Huntington’s disease, are observed to see if they have mental deficiencies, like the fact that people with HD.

Original: Physorg Translation: M. Potter


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