Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Researchers at the University of Cambridge trained eight sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities from photos shown on a computer screen. But it's been unclear whether the skill was real recognition or simple memorization.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species.

Scientists would show each sheep two faces, one of which was the target celebrity, Sky News reported.

Tapping on the "correct" portrait would reward the sheep with food while choosing the wrong face would result in no food and a sound being played. Then, during the trials, the sheep were released into a pen where they had to discern between the familiar faces and an object or an unfamiliar face.

To see if the sheep were just memorizing shapes, researchers did the same test, but with pictures in which the celebs' heads were tilted right or left.

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In subsequent tests, the sheep chose the learnt celebrity face eight times out of every ten, said the research team. She did a double take of both faces before ultimately choosing her handler. The photo recognition experiment gives scientists a way to track changes in the cognitive abilities of sheep with a gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease. Later, they were able to recognize the images for which they had been rewarded.

Brad Duchaine, a brain scientist at Dartmouth College, doesn't find the sheep's ability surprising.

Morton is using sheep as models for studying human brain disorders.

The researchers published their findings today in the Royal Society Open Science journal with the title "Sheep recognize familiar and unfamiliar human faces from two-dimensional images".

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