Dogs re­mem­ber – or not

> A re­cent study says that ca­nines pos­sess the abil­ity to re­call de­tails of an event that oc­curred re­cently but other ex­perts are not con­vinced these an­i­mals do have episodic mem­ory

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

Hun­gary, said the method goes be­yond im­i­ta­tion to probe if a dog can un­ex­pect­edly re­mem­ber an ac­tion from the past.

“Dogs trained with this method can im­i­tate their own­ers’ ac­tions even af­ter a de­lay of 24 hours,” she said. “Thus, giv­ing dogs the ‘do it’ com­mand af­ter a de­lay is in a way sim­i­lar to ask­ing them: ‘Do you re­mem­ber what your owner did’?”

The re­sult is “the first ev­i­dence of episodic-like mem­ory of oth­ers’ ac­tions in a non-hu­man species, and it is the first re­port of this type of mem­ory in dogs,” the re­port in Cur­rent Bi­ol­ogy said.

Fugazza, who has also trained dol­phins, or­cas and par­rots to mimic hu­man be­hav­iour, be­lieves fur­ther study could show that this kind of mem­ory ex­ists in many other an­i­mals, too.

The dogs stud­ied, which in­cluded a va­ri­ety of breeds and mix­tures, were able to re­call their trainer’s ac­tions one hour and up to one day later, but be­yond that, their mem­o­ries be­gan to wane, the study said.

Ques­tions about the depths of dog mem­ory have stirred de­bate in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

Some ex­perts have said episodic mem­ory does not ex­ist in dogs, be­cause ca­nines have no sense of self and they ap­pear to live in a kind of eter­nal present.

Oth­ers say ev­i­dence is mount­ing that dogs have episodic mem­o­ries, and it makes sense be­cause they are so­cial an­i­mals.

“Dogs have great mem­o­ries of a lot of events and this study shows that we’re still learn­ing just how good their mem­ory re­ally is,” said Marc Bekoff, a be­havioural ecol­o­gist and for­mer re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Colorado.

“Dogs need to be able to learn and re­mem­ber what their hu­man wants them to do, and there won’t al­ways be an im­me­di­ate as­so­ci­a­tion of the events in time,” added Bekoff, who was not in­volved in the study.

“So, it is not sur­pris­ing to me that dogs can re­mem­ber the ‘do it’ re­quest af­ter a pe­riod of time even if they weren’t ex­pect­ing to be asked to do some­thing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Gema Mart­inOr­das, a fel­low at the New­cas­tle Univer­sity In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­science, the study is “in­ter­est­ing” but may miss some of the com­plex­ity in­volved in episodic mem­o­ries.

“When we re­mem­ber past events, we re­mem­ber not only what we were do­ing (like eat­ing) but also where (in the kitchen), who was there (my mum) and/or when (yes­ter­day),” she told AFP via email.

“In that re­gard, their study shows mem­o­ries for the ‘what’ but I be­lieve it is miss­ing some of the other com­po­nents.”

Still, the idea is “worth ex­plor­ing”, she added.

“Test­ing whether mem­o­ries keep de­cay­ing with longer in­ter­vals and whether more com­plex mem­o­ries de­cay af­ter sim­i­lar re­ten­tion in­ter­vals would be very in­ter­est­ing.” – AFP-Relaxnews

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