Animals Using One Side of their Brains are More Successful

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SYDNEY – A new study has determined animals that process information using a preferred hemisphere of the brain fare better those who use both sides of their brain simultaneously.

According to a report by ABC News, the study suggests the brain operates like a dual processor in a computer, with each of the brain’s two sides kicking into action depending on the content or context of the information.

Dr Culum Brown of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney, and colleague Maria Magat, focused their research on several different types of Australian birds, such as gang-gangs, sulfur-crested cockatoos and Australian king parrots.

All of the birds participated in two tests designed to test their cerebral lateralisation, meaning how strongly each bird preferentially processes information using either hemisphere of the brain.

The first task was a simple pebble-seed discrimination test, where the birds had to pick seeds out of a background of similar sized pebbles.

The second task was more demanding.

The researchers attached food to the end of a suspended string that the birds had to manipulate with their beaks and feet in order to get the tasty reward.

Birds with a preference for using either of their eyes or either of their legs did better than birds that used both eyes and both legs equally.

This means that the most successful birds have a very strong cerebral lateralisation, which “is influenced by both genes and experience,” according to Brown.

He and Magat found that the pattern of lateralisation, left or right bias, did not predict success as much as the strength of the particular bias did.

Carrying the findings over to humans, this suggests, in part, that a right-handed person isn’t more successful than a left-handed one, and vice-versa.

But people who always favour a certain hand, foot or eye for certain tasks will likely perform better than those who don’t exhibit obvious preferences.

Brown said that there are several reasons why such specialized division of the brain confers benefits to the individual.

“Firstly, it means that a given hemisphere can become increasingly specialized at processing certain types of information,” he said.

According to Brown, assigning particular tasks to each side of the brain avoids conflict between the two hemispheres, and allows “multiple sources of information to be processed simultaneously, that is to say, animals can multitask like a dual processor in a computer.”

Gene Therapy Raises Hope for the Color Blind

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SEATTLE – Researchers in the US have made a breakthrough discovery which could bring a cure for colour blindness and other diseases that can lead to a total loss of sight.

Using gene therapy, the boffins successfully treated a pair of squirrel monkeys that could not differentiate between red and green.

The development could bring new treatments for a variety of different diseases that are triggered by faulty cone cells at the back of the eye. The problem can lead to diseases such as macular degeneration, which often causes complete blindness.

The research, which was led by Jay Neitz, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington, has been published in the scientific journal Nature, reports The Daily Express.

Professor Neitz said: “People who are colour blind often feel that they are missing out. If we could find a way to do this with complete safety in human eyes, as we did with monkeys, I think there would be a lot of people who would want it.

“Beyond that, we hope this technology will be useful in correcting lots of different vision disorders.”