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When looking sheepish counts as smart.

When looking sheepish counts as smarts

What would happen if you met a sheep face-to-face in a darkalley, or a darkened room? More important, which area of the sheep's brain would respond? A British study, in which sheep were hung in slings in darkened rooms before a projector screen, tested the responses in the animals' brains to pictures of both friendly and menacing faces of a variety of species.

Scientists at the AFRC Institute of Animal Physiology andGenetics Research in Cambridge took counting sheep a step beyond the usual: They measured the electrical impulses given off by different areas of sheeps' brains when exposed to different visual stimuli. During a study reported in the April 24 SCIENCE, the scientists recorded reponses from 561 types of cells throughout the brain, of which 40 responded consistently to pictures of faces. Previous studies with monkeys had shown that some brain cells respond specifically to faces of certain species, and to specific faces or facial expressions.

How cells in sheep brains respond is affected by the faceshown, say the scientists, who divided the responding cells into categories based on their reactions to different types of faces. For example, certain cells (called the predominant type) responded most to pictures of other sheep with large horns, while the "familiar' cell types responded to pictures of sheep that were known to the study subjects. Other cells reacted when the sheep were shown pictures of dogs, pigs and men. Pictures of bodies that did not show the faces elicited no significant neuronal response. Neither, say the scientists, did upside-down faces, unlike the monkey study. Does this mean that, rather than wearing that hot-and-itchy sheep's clothing, the marauding wolf should have stood on his head instead?
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Title Annotation:research on how areas of sheep's brain respond to pictures of different species
Publication:Science News
Date:May 16, 1987
Words:287
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