Mice’s learning skills help researchers pinpointing brain areas where acquired knowledge is stored

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Is it a Rembrandt or a Vermeer? For lay people, it is often challenging to distinguish paintings by these two old masters. For the trained eye of an expert, on the other hand, it is not difficult at all. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology have now demonstrated that mice can also become experts in sorting images into categories. The study shows that part of the category knowledge is already present in early visual areas, highlighting how widespread such semantic memories are stored throughout the brain.

Have you ever tried to distinguish a painting by Rembrandt from one by Vermeer? It could certainly seem like a guessing game: the differences are subtle to an untrained eye. An art enthusiast, however, has no problem with the classification — even though there are few clues that can be generally applied. How is that possible?

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