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Researchers at U of C and U of I Have Trained Pigeons to Identify Breast Cancer

26 NOV 2015
Career Path : Education News
Urban Pigeon

A recent study, by researchers at the University of California and the University of Iowa, has shown that pigeons can identify breast cancer just as well as humans can. In fact, scientists say they have been able to detect the disease with a 99 per cent success rate thus far.

So why are we turning to our feathered friends to detect cancer? It’s no surprise that training medical experts, like doctors and technicians, is both very costly and time-consuming. And since there has yet to be technology invented which can detect the disease, researchers are seeking alternative methods of doing so.

While a pigeon’s brain is about the size of the tip of an index finger, these birds do share many of the same visual system properties as humans. Researchers at the University of California and the University of Iowa trained 16 pigeons each day, by placing them in front of a computer screen. Much like training any pet, if the birds were able to correctly spot cancerous tissue on the computer screen, they received an edible treat and if they were incorrect, they were not rewarded.

Of course, it will be quite some time before pigeons are ready to replace humans in the identification of cancerous tissue, however, scientists are hopeful that further testing will lead to a positive outcome.


Source: Business Insider