Neuroscience

Different species solve problems differently

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Science  20 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6399, pp. 241-242
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6399.241-c

Tree shrews (like this one) and long-tailed macaques perform differently than rats on a vision-based test.

PHOTO: NEIL BOWMAN/MINDEN PICTURES

The most powerful methods available for investigating the neural correlates of perceptual learning increasingly rely on rodents as animal models. The implicit assumption is that whenever rodents perform a task, they engage a similar neural circuitry as other species, such as primates. This is problematic for visual system studies because rodent vision is poor. Mustafar et al. examined the behavior of rats, long-tailed macaques, and tree shrews as they learned an identical visual discrimination task. Rats learned more slowly and had a lower peak performance than the other species. They also learned in a different way: Throughout training, including after acquisition, rats used reward history to guide their performance, unlike long-tailed macaques and tree shrews. These results indicate the necessity of careful comparative studies in translational research.

eNeuro 10.1523/ENEURO.0167-18.2018 (2018).

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