Monkeys Ponder What Could Have Been
By: Rachael Rettner | LiveScience.com
It's a good thing monkeys can't gamble. New research shows these primates are capable of "woulda-coulda-shoulda" thoughts, like those that keep gamblers at the tables.
Monkeys' brains respond to rewards that they observe but do not experience — so-called fictive outcomes — and monkeys change their behavior when they are shown the prizes that they could have had, researchers from Duke University Medical Center say.
"Monkeys appear to be able to use fictive information to guide their behavior, so they’re not purely guided by their direct experience of reward and punishment," said Michael Platt, the study's senior author.
This is one of the first studies to look at fictive thinking in animals, he said. The results are detailed in the May 15 issue of the journal Science.
To study the monkey thought process, the scientists focused on the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC), a region of the brain thought to be involved in learning from experiences and adapting behavior. They monitored the monkeys' brain neurons while the animals played a game designed to study fictive thinking.
The monkeys were shown eight white cards arranged in a circle. Each card had a color underneath that corresponded to a specific reward, in this case, a certain amount of juice. One prize was larger than the others — a high value reward. Over many trials, the monkey learned to associate the color green with the biggest reward. After the monkey picked a card, all the cards were turned over, and the monkey was shown the prizes that it missed, and then given the reward.
The researchers found that the neural response was proportional to the reward given — the bigger the reward, the more the neurons fired. And the neurons responded the same way to fictive rewards. This result shows that "nerve cells in the ACC, which we already knew carry information about experienced rewards, also carry information about fictive rewards, information about the rewards that got away," said Platt.
Learning from mistakes
The monkeys also altered their behavior depending on the size of the fictive reward.
If the monkey missed out on a big reward in one trial, it was more likely to choose the card that had offered that large reward in the next trial. This is similar to what people do when they gamble. For example, if someone is playing roulette and bets on black, but red wins and pays off big, the person is more likely to bet on red the next time.
Fictive thinking may have helped the monkeys learn as well. During the trials, the large reward was kept in the same spot 60 percent of the time or moved clockwise by one position in order to see if the monkey would pick up on the pattern. Indeed, they did. The monkeys chose cards next to possible high value rewards in 38 percent of the trials, while they chose cards adjacent to low value rewards in only 17 percent of trials.
The research was funded by a fellowship from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Video: Expanding Chimps Minds
Monkeys Like to Gamble
Video: Clever Primates
Counting monkeys tick off yet another 'human' ability
Monkey's brain controls robot arm
Scientists Clone First Monkey
The abandoned monkey who has found love with a pigeon
Latest News from our Front Page
The Josh Duggar Incident Reveals The Tactics And Hypocrisy of SJWs
Last week, In Touch Weekly broke the news that Josh Duggar, eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from TLCâ€™s 19 Kids and Counting, had molested five under-aged girls in 2002 and 2003. Josh, who was 14 at the time, was accused of fondling his victims, touching their breasts and genitals while they slept.
A police report was released shortly ...
15 More Men of South Asian Descent Charged With Child Sex Offences
Police in Keighley, West Yorkshire have charged 14 men and a 16-year-old boy with sex offences including the rape of a girl under the age of 16. The offences relate primarily to one female victim, with one allegation involving a second who was also under 16 at the time.
The offences are alleged to have occurred between 2011 and 2012. In ...
Anti-Semitic fliers left on Chevy Chase driveways
Five streets in Chevy Chase, Md., were papered with anti-Semitic fliers on Wednesday morning.
Montgomery County police are looking for the person or people who left the hate-filled leaflets on almost every driveway on the streets.
â€śThis is very disturbing. My community is definitely disturbed,â€ť said Jean Sperling, the village manager of Martinâ€™s Additions, the community where the fliers were found. Sperling ...
German court says ex-SS officer unfit for trial
Prosecutors in the northern German city of Hamburg have dropped their probe into a 93-year-old former Nazi SS officer. Gerhard Sommer, who suffers from dementia, allegedly took part in a World War II massacre in Italy.
Gerhard Sommer, a former company commander of a mechanized infantry division, had been accused of participating in the mass murder of 560 civilians by Nazi ...
The Age of Disinformation
I have been a professional meteorologist for 36 years. Since my debut on television in 1979, I have been an eyewitness to the many changes in technology, society, and how we communicate. I am one who embraces change, and celebrates the higher quality of life we enjoy now thanks to this progress.
But, at the same time, I realize the instant ...
|More News » |