Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New research reveals fish are smarter than we thought

31.10.2014

A new study from researchers at the University of Bath and Queen Mary University of London has reported the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects simultaneously.

The discovery is proof not just that fish are more intelligent than their reputation for a ‘three-second memory’ suggests, but importantly paves the way for new medical advances that could help in stroke rehabilitation and in treatments for attention deficit disorders.

Published today in the journal PLOS ONE, the study is the first to identify ‘parallel visual search’ – the ability to pick out one object among many – in zebrafish.

Visual search involves an active scan of an environment in order to look for just one object or feature. In everyday life we might relate to this in searching for an item on a supermarket shelf, looking for friends in a crowd or even identifying ‘Where’s Wally?’

Given the benefits of visual search in finding a mate, spotting a predator or searching for prey, the research team suggest that doing this efficiently by ignoring distracting items should be common among species. Yet, up until this point it had only been identified in primates, rats and pigeons. Without the frontal part of the brain in the neocortex, it was assumed that fish would have to examine every item, one after the other, to find the target, rather than assess the whole scene together.

As part of the study, 11 adult zebrafish were presented with different visual stimuli, in the form of different coloured circles on a computer monitor, over a period of six days to assess their visual processing abilities. Scientists taught zebrafish to associate food with a red disk, and then placed that disc among other distracting discs.

Lead author from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, Dr Michael Proulx explains: “Although vision seems simple and quick, it involves a lot of computational power to figure out where things are in a crowded environment.

It is incredible to discover that the zebrafish brain, with its small size and simple structure, can seemingly find a target visually without getting slower. No matter how many items we added to the scene to distract the fish, they had no problem responding at the same speed every time.

"The zebrafish is an excellent model organism to study behavioural genetics and neurobiology thanks to its smaller brain and transparent skin. Now that we have discovered their mental sophistication, there is a great opportunity to discover the neural code and genetics of how humans pay attention, and apply those findings to treatments for those with ADHD or strokes."

By uncovering the similarities between fish and humans in how they process visual information, the study now opens up other possibilities for using zebrafish for research.

Dr Matthew Parker from Queen Mary University of London, co-author of the paper, adds: “Fish don’t deserve their reputation as the stupid branch of the animal family tree, the more research we do the more we find out that they are capable of quite complex learning and problem solving. This could be because being part of a shoal requires complicated interactions with their environments and quick processing of large amounts of information.

“Zebrafish are genetically surprisingly similar to humans and are incredibly useful to our studies of how genes influence addiction and psychiatric diseases, among other things.”

The research adds to growing knowledge of fish intelligence that suggests they are capable of much more than we previously thought. Other studies have found that fish are able to pick the larger of two groups of objects, count up to at least four and have comparatively lengthy memories.

The latest paper, ‘Parallel mechanisms for visual search in zebrafish’, is available online via PLOS ONE at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111540


For further information, please contact the University of Bath Press Office on +44 (0)1225 386 319 or +44 (0)7966 341 431.


Notes
We are one of the UK's leading universities, ranked number one in the UK for student satisfaction for the last two years in the National Student Survey (NSS) and in the top ten of all national league tables, including being named ‘Best Campus University’ in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014.

Our Mission is to deliver world class research and teaching, educating our students to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence. Our courses are innovative and interdisciplinary and we have an outstanding record of graduate employment.

Andrew Dunne | University of Bath & Queen Mary University of London

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>