Eurasian jays exhibit memory traits similar to humans

Eurasian jays exhibit memory traits similar to humans
Eurasian jays exhibit memory traits similar to humans

New research shows that Eurasian jays have a memory similar to human episodic memory, allowing them to remember incidental details about past events, which can help them locate their food.

One study found that jays can remember incidental details, which is similar to episodic memory in humans.

According to a study recently published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, Eurasian jays have the ability to remember incidental details of past events, a trait indicative of episodic memory in humans. This research was carried out by James Davies and his team at the University of Cambridge, UK.

When remembering events, humans have the ability to “mentally time travel,” consciously reimagining past experiences, and potentially remembering details that seemed unimportant at the time. Some researchers have suggested that this “episodic memory” is unique to humans. In this study, Davies and colleagues conducted a memory experiment to test episodic-like memory in seven Eurasian jays, birds that excel at remembering the location of stored food.

Jaylo the Jay watches as the food is put into the cup with the blue string during the encoding phase. Credit: James Davies, CC-BY 4.0

During the experiment, the birds observed food being placed under a cup in a line of four identical cups and were then rewarded for correctly selecting the baited cup. Over the course of several trials, the birds were trained to identify the correct cup by remembering its position in the line. Then, during the test, the jays underwent an unexpected assessment of their memory: they saw food placed under one of the cups, which now all had unique visual characteristics, but they were then separated from the cups for 10 minutes while the cups were moved and rearranged. Despite the change in the position of the cups and the additional delay, the birds still correctly identified the baited cup based on their visual characteristics in 70% of the cases.

Implications of the study

These results suggest that although the visual differences between the cups were not significant during training, the birds were able to notice these differences during testing and remember them later, similar to episodic memory. in humans. This study indicates that episodic-like memory could help jays find food reserves, and the researchers suggest that future studies could determine whether birds can perform similar memory feats in other non-food-related scenarios. .

The authors add: “As the jays were able to remember details that had no specific value or relevance at the time the memory was created, this suggests that they are capable of recording, remembering and access incidental information within a stored event. This is an ability that characterizes the type of human memory through which we mentally “relive” past events (or episodes), known as “episodic” memory.

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