December 3, 2014

Increasing the intelligence of animals

I've read a few versions of this story in the past few days, hoping to gain further details. The link I've provided seems to be the most comprehensive version of the tale. What's it all about? Well, it seems that a group of scientists did something very interesting:
A team of researchers working at the University of Rochester in New York, has found that injecting glial cells into a mouse brain caused an improvement in both memory and cognition in the mouse. In their paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the team explains how they injected the test mice and then tested them afterwards to see what impact it had on their abilities.
Now, don't freak out. They weren't neurons -- in other words they weren't human brain cells. The cells they injected merely provide support to neurons; no one literally thinks with them. The procedure served to expand the network of the mouse brains, and that allowed them to think better -- and probably more swiftly (with their very own mouse neurons; calm down). Here's a bit more:
Testing the mice showed that their memory was far superior to normal mice and they had improved cognition as well.
That's what I want to know more about. Exactly what were these altered mice able to do? Run mazes in a single bound? Figure out tests that had been opaque to them a week ago? Tell me! The story ends with this:
The team is considering testing the same procedure with other animals, but says it will not do it with monkeys—the ethical issues might become too great.
I'm not clear about the ethical issues involved in using monkeys. Is there a fear that the monkeys will become too smart and will resemble humans to an uncomfortable (to us) degree? Is there a fear that a super-intelligent monkey would be smart enough to be saddened by his fate, echoing the situation experienced by the human character in the movie "Charly"? Will the altered monkeys realize how badly we've always treated them and demand a condo and reparations? I wish there was more detail.

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