NATIONAL

Brain has radar for snakes

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Oct 29, 2013 - 19:29
  • Updated : Oct 29, 2013 - 19:30

Ever wonder why snakes inspire such fear? A new study on monkeys out Monday says the brain has specific cells that fire off rapid warnings when confronted with slithery danger.

Certain neurons respond “selectively” to images of snakes, and they outpace comparable neurons that react to visuals of faces, hands or geometric shapes, the researchers said.

The report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers new evidence to support the notion that primates evolved keen vision skills so they could survive the threats snakes pose in the jungle.

“It really strengthens the argument that snakes are very important for the evolution of primates,” lead co-author Lynne Isbell, a professor in the anthropology department at the University of California Davis, told AFP.

“Snakes elicited the strongest, fastest responses,” said the study, co-authored by Quan Van Le of the University of Toyama and researchers at the University of Brasilia.

The research was done using two young macaque monkeys that were born on a national monkey farm in Japan.

Researchers said they believe the monkeys had no chance to encounter snakes prior to the experiment.

Scientists surgically implanted micro-electrodes in a part of the brain known as the pulvinar, which is involved in visual attention and the fast processing of threatening images.

Then they showed the monkeys various color images on a computer screen, including snakes in various positions, threatening monkey faces, pictures of monkey hands and simple shapes like stars or squares. (AFP)