Friday, March 28, 2008

Rodent trained to be Las Vegas croupier

Atshushi Iriki's group in Tokyo has trained degus (intelligent rodents native to the highlands of Chile) to provide the first example (published in PLOS ONE) of rodents wielding tools for a task. (see my 5/7/2007 post for an example with Ravens. Monkeys and Chimps also use tools - Hihara et al. have found extension of corticocortical afferents into the anterior bank of the intraparietal sulcus after tool-use training in adult monkeys.) It will be interesting to see whether tool-use training in degus also results in extended representations in parietotemporal areas and newly formed connections between brain areas, including the prefrontal cortex, similar to those observed in the macaque brain. Work of this sort begins to define brain structures used in the development of tool use.

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