herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Finding Nemo was wrong - fish are cleverer than we thought

Finding Nemo character Dory is not representative of her kind, according to a new study that proves fish are more intelligent than previously thought.

The popular Disney film depicts Dory as a typical fish, forgetting her surroundings and circumstances almost instantly due to a "three-second memory".

That image could be a thing of the past thanks to scientists who have uncovered the first evidence that fish are able to process multiple objects at once.

Researchers say this proves fish are cleverer than their reputation and could pave the way for medical advances, assisting stroke patients or those with attention deficit disorders.

The University of Bath and Queen Mary University of London study is the first to identify parallel visual search - the ability to pick out one item in many - in zebrafish.

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Until now, parallel visual search had only been identified in primates, rats and pigeons.

It was believed that, without the frontal part of the brain in the neocortex, fish would have to examine each object individually rather than a whole scene together.

In the study, 11 adult zebrafish were presented with different coloured circles on a computer monitor over a six-day period to test their visual processing abilities.

The zebrafish were taught to associate food with a red disc and - to the delight of researchers - managed to quickly pick it out from a pile of other distracting discs.

Dr Michael Proulx, of the University of Bath's Department of Psychology, said: "Although vision seems simple and quick, it involves a lot of computational power."

hnews@herald.ie

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