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Index – Science Technology – A surprising discovery: Mice have imagination, too

Index – Science Technology – A surprising discovery: Mice have imagination, too

A team from Lee and Harris Labs has developed a new system that combines virtual reality with a brain-scanning interface, The New York Times reports. Teach daily. Thus, they examined the brain function of mice in order to get an answer to the question: Do animals have the same imagination as humans?

The scientist who published the research results, Zhongxi Lai, said:

Mice are actually able to remember different locations in their environment without actually going there. Even if their physical bodies were immobile, their spatial thoughts could wander far away.

The ability to imagine yourself in a place other than your current situation is essential for remembering past events and thinking about possible future events. According to the new study, animals, like humans, have the imagination to do this.

Albert Lee, a former team leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, says:

Imagination is an exceptional ability of the human race. Now that we know animals have them, we’ve found a way to study them, too.

The research began nine years ago, when Zhongxi Lai, a recent graduate, decided he wanted to conduct research on animal imagination. He contacted Albert Lee, whose team was looking for answers to similar questions. The researchers began working together. They developed a type of real-time scanning system that was able to interpret brain activity in animals.

Uninterrupted attention

The machine projected the mice’s thoughts into a 360-degree virtual space based on electrical signals from the rodent’s hippocampus, a part of the brain. The two main functions of the hippocampus are remembering spatial information and remembering past events. In this way, we are able to think about future possibilities. Until now, it has not been certain whether animals, like humans, are consciously capable of this type of memory.

The team found that mice can precisely control hippocampal activity, just as humans do. Animals can also retain their thoughts on a particular process for several seconds, such as when people recall past events or imagine possible future events. Tim Harris, who participated in the research, says:

What’s amazing, given our perhaps naive idea of ​​the limits of rats’ attention, is how they can think about a particular place and nothing else for very long periods of time.