Monday, June 4, 2007

Rhesus monkeys can calculate statistics for a drink

Rhesus monkeys turn out to be pretty good statisticians, a study reveals.
They can accurately assess which of two behaviours is more likely to bring them a reward by summing together a series of probabilistic clues. And their reasoning is reflected in the firing rate of individual neurons in their brain.
Tianming Yang and Michael Shadlen at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle, US, tested the reasoning of two rhesus macaques by showing them a series of abstract shapes on a video screen.
Each shape corresponded to a different probability that a drink reward would be associated with a red instead of a green target.
In each trial, the monkey saw a sequence of 4 of 10 possible shapes then, had to choose which target to look at. The probability that the red target would give the reward was the sum of the probabilities for each of the four shapes; otherwise, the green target yielded the drink.( more from NewScientist...)

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