Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I'm Not Sure What to Make of This...

From Scientific American:

Agnès Lacreuse of Emory University and her colleagues worked with 90 adult rhesus monkeys to test their spatial memories. The animals fell into three age groups ranging from young (less than 15 years old) to middle aged (between 15 and 20 years) to old (more than 20 years old). Rhesus monkeys “are useful in the study of possible sex differences in cognitive aging because they provide a model that is not confounded by sex differences in longevity or dementia,” Lacreuse says. The researchers had the monkeys track the location of food hidden under 18 identical covers on a tray and found that young adult male monkeys performed the best at the task. This pattern of male supremacy did not hold across age groups, however: older males and females performed equally well. In addition, a second experiment with 22 monkeys indicated that training young female rhesus monkeys closes the gender gap. Whereas training had no impact on how well young males performed at locating the food, young females raised their abilities to match those of males after they were trained using a simpler version of the challenge. The authors posit that the training helped focus the females' attention on the spatial nature of the task, whereas males may be more naturally attuned to its spatial features.


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