Mice as adept at assessing risk as humans

February 3rd, 2009 - 2:26 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, February 3 (ANI): An American study has shown that when it comes to assessing risk in everyday tasks, humans and mice are equally adept.
Writing about their observations in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Rutgers University scientists have revealed that mice and humans show equal proficiency when it comes to figuring out in a few seconds which of two locations is the best place to be to collect a reward.
The researcher trioFuat Balci, David Freestone, and Charles R. Gallistelsays that the finding suggests that risk assessment is not basically a high-level conscious activity, but one that is programmed into the brains of animals mice, humans and many others.
In their study paper, the researchers write that their finding “contrasts with the traditional view that humans are non-normative decision-makers under probabilistic conditions.”
“Our results say, under our circumstances and I stress, under our circumstances not only are humans optimal, so are mice,” Gallistel said.
The researchers said that the circumstances were analogous to deciding whether or not to go through a broken red light, based on how long one has been waiting.
They revealed that the subjects waited first at one location for food to appear.
If it failed to appear there after a known and fixed delay, they switched to another location, where it appeared after a longer delay.
The relative frequency with which it appeared at either the short or the long location varied.
According to the researcher, in judging when to switch from the short to the long location, the subjects had to take into account both how long they had been waiting at the short location, and the probability that it was a long trial.
“These animals (the mice) were doing something that, on the face of it, was mathematically complicated,” Gallistel said.
“On the one hand, that’’s surprising, but then, maybe not, because risk assessment is part of life. It’’s risky being a mouse. There are lots of things out there trying to eat you. So the ability of these animals to do this complicated thing might actually be very primitive the kind of basic, cognitive mechanism that you might try to understand by looking at the molecules and cells in the nervous system. Because mice do it and mice are a favorite subject for genetic work, one may be able to use the power of modern genetics to get down to the molecular and cellular mechanisms,” added the researcher. (ANI)

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