A New Study Finds Your Pets Can Tell Time

Your pets can tell time, study finds.

It's turns out our pets are more like us than we thought. 

A new study conducted by Northwestern University found some very clear evidence that animals have the ability to judge time.

Researches examined the brains of various animals, specifically the medial entorhinal cortex [portion of the brain that functions as a hub in a widespread network for memory, navigation and the perception of time].The researchers discovered a previously unknown set of neurons that turn on like a clock when an animal is waiting. The research was published online this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

In order to run tests, the researchers set up an experiment called the virtual "door stop" task. During this test, a mouse runs on a physical treadmill in a virtual reality environment. After six seconds, the door opens, allowing the mouse to continue down the hallway to receive its reward.

The next step in this hypothesis required that same mouse to run several sessions; Next the researchers made the door invisible in this scene. Except, now in this new scenario, the mouse still knew where the "now-invisible door" was located based on the floor's changing textures. The mouse still waited six seconds at the "door" before it continued racing down the track to collect its reward, as it did in the previous task.

Virtual reality played a large role in this experiment. By using virtual reality, potential influencing factors were controlled (i.e. sounds, touch, hearing, smell or any sense). By controlling potential factors allows the animals to judge time. 

This is so cool! Gets you thinking about our poor pets who sit around all day doing nothing, right?


Materials provided by Northwestern University

Photos: Getting Images

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