Published: Thu, November 09, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Apparently These Sheep Can Recognize Emma Watson and Barack Obama

Apparently These Sheep Can Recognize Emma Watson and Barack Obama

Out of the all the shown photos, the sheep chose celebrities Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and United Kingdom television journalist Fiona Bruce. "Either the human face is similar enough to the sheep face that [it] activates the sheep face-processing system, or human-face recognition relies on more general-purpose recognition systems".

Sheep are known for their sociability, but this showed - with some training - the sheep could not only recognize fellow sheep and humans they knew, but process images of faces.

Scientists say the study could help advance research of Huntington's disease, which causes humans to lose their ability to recognize faces, Sky News reported.

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Jake Gyllenhaal, seen here with an animal that is not a sheep.

"Anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals who are able to recognize their handlers", said Professor Jenny Morton, who led the Cambridge study. However, the ability of sheep to identify faces was unclear.

A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients.

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Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs. If they chose the wrong photograph, a buzzer would sound and they would receive no reward. However, their ability to recognize human faces from photos alone is novel.

The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment.

Researchers say this is without any prior training.

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They then challenged the animals again, this time by showing them a picture of the same celebrity, but using a new photo of their face tilted at an angle. The results were published Wednesday in the Royal Society's Open Science journal as part of research looking into cognitive ability and neurodegenerative disorders, like Huntington's disease, which can impair people's ability to recognize facial emotion.

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