Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs. The investigators also found that the sheep could identify a picture of their handler without any training. This line of research could help improve understanding of Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions in people, according to scientists at the University of Cambridge in England.
“Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys. That means they can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain – such as Huntington’s disease – that develop over a long time and affect [mental] abilities,” [study leader Jenny] Morton said.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes neurons (nerve cells) in particular parts of the brain to degenerate, resulting in debilitating physical, cognitive and emotional problems.
“Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change, particularly in sheep who carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington’s disease,” Morton pointed out. Huntington’s disease gets progressively worse, and features uncontrolled movements, abnormal posture, and changes in behaviour, judgment and thinking. Morton and her team are currently studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington’s disease.
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