Feeds

Scientists train Japanese-speaking rats

Well, sort of...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Neuroscientists at the University of Barcelona have discovered that rats can - with a little encouragement - tell the difference between Dutch and Japanese. Sadly, this newfound linguistic ability does not extend to actually understanding what is being said, thereby thwarting hopes that rat-brain-controlled stealth attack drones could be guided onto al-Qaeda strongholds by the dulcet tones of Donald Rumsfeld.

Rather, the said rodents are able to differentiate the rhythmic properties of the two languages - a process which the boffins believe may give clues as to how human babies develop language skills, according to a New Scientist report.

A team led by neuroscientist Juan Toro trained the rats to "recognise either Dutch or Japanese - by pressing a lever in response to a short sentence - and then exposed them to sentences they had not heard before, in both languages". They discovered that while their guinea rats could tell the difference between the languages "as long as the sentences were computer-synthesised or both languages were spoken by the same person", playing the sentences backwards or having them spoken by different people threw the poor animals completely.

Toro says this is because exposing rats to a different voice makes the job "too difficult" for the little blighters. As regards playing sentences backwards, Toro notes that this also throws human infants and monkeys - as previous experiments proved. Toro admitted he didn't know "what exactly is lost by playing speech backwards". We make no comment.

The bottom line is that rats are not apparently developing the ability to speak. Toro reckons they probably have "some mechanism suited for auditory processing in general" which they evolved "to sense sound patterns that might warn of predators approaching or changing predator behaviour". Human speech may too have begun as a similar evolutionary device, Toro concludes. ®

Related stories

The rise of the rat-brain controlled android
Peruvians develop super-tasty guinea pig
Killer hamster ices owner
Aussie boffins probe lesbian cows
Sheep pine for absent friends: official
Sheep like happy, smiley people: official
Inside the mind of the gay sheep

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.