Goldfish May Have a Memory Longer Than Just Three Seconds | Trending Viral hub

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It’s a common saying: to have “a memory like that of a goldfish” is to be absolutely distracted. Although many love them as house pets, goldfish (Golden Carassius) They are characterized by having a memory that lasts just three seconds.

Yet despite that forgetful reputation, scientists have known for decades that such claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Freshwater fish are much smarter than you thinkand studies have repeatedly shown that your memories can span several months.

What’s more, a recent surge in research on fish brain function has found that goldfish share many of the same cognitive abilities as humans, including object perception, social learning, and spatial awareness.

Misconceptions About Goldfish and Memory Span

The key brain structure that allows mammals to form memories (the hippocampus) is absent in fish. In many animals with higher level brain functions, the hippocampus stores explicit memory, which allows us to consciously remember specific events and first-hand experiences.

For years, many pet owners believed that the lack of a hippocampus meant that goldfish did not have the ability to store memories at all, leading to the rise of the three-second memory myth.

“I think the misconception basically comes from the fact that many people (and I hope fewer and fewer) keep fish in a circular container,” says the behavioral ecologist. Adelaide Sibeaux, who researches navigation in animals at the University of Oxford. “We haven’t given the fish (the chance) to just show us how smart they are.”

However, research conducted as early as the 1960s showed that goldfish do, in fact, have memories much longer than just three seconds. In 1966, scientists at the University of Michigan conducted a study that showed that goldfish He improved in an exercise to avoid blows. over the course of multiple trials and several days, providing early evidence of short-term memory formation.

Since then, scientists have steadily managed to train goldfish in exercises related to memory and perception, teaching them to do everything from recognize human faces even driving a makeshift robotic car.

These skills may seem basic, but researchers provide evidence that goldfish are able to connect events and objects at different times, a key indicator of explicit memory.


Read more: How intelligence is measured in the animal kingdom


A Wave of Research on Goldfish Cognition

In the last ten years, in particular, there has been an increase in studies on fish cognition, as researchers search for clues to human evolution hidden in the brains of our aquatic predecessors.

More recently, in a 2022 study, Sibeaux and his colleagues at the University of Oxford found that goldfish have the ability to estimate distance, further demonstrating his intelligence. The researchers trained goldfish to swim a set distance across a tank lined with vertical stripes and tracked how their swimming pattern changed if they altered the pattern of these stripes.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that goldfish are able to navigate their environment and remember visual cues through a process known as optic flow, estimating distance by following the movement of objects around them.

According to Sibeaux, these results could position goldfish “as a model system to investigate the evolution of the mechanisms underlying spatial cognition in vertebrates.” In other words, while goldfish may not have the ability to remember and process their environment in the same way as humans, they can still perform these cognitive functions at a much higher level than previously thought.

In another 2022 study, published in the journal animalsScientists showed that goldfish could distinguish between photographs of plastic turtles and plastic frogs. The process of object constancy (the ability to recognize different objects from different angles) is another key indicator that goldfish might be smarter than we think.


Read more: Can fish recognize themselves? These cleaner wrasses passed the mirror test


What we don’t know about memory in goldfish

However, the biggest mystery that remains is which part of the brain goldfish use to store memory and process their environment. Although fish do not have a hippocampus, do They have a similar region of the brain known as the pallium, which some researchers say helps them connect events at different points in time and space.

But recent studies have been divided over which part of the pallium is responsible for storing spatial memory. In late 2023, scientists discovered that goldfish with lesions on the pallium performed worse on memory tasks than those without injuries, regardless of which part was altered. The study suggests that goldfish can use both parts of the pallium for memory, challenging the previous assumption that only one part is involved.

As researchers continue to investigate, one thing is certain: There is more to these popular pets than meets the eye, and their unexpectedly advanced memory could provide clues to how the human brain has evolved over time.

“There are a lot of changes happening right now, also among humans, such as global change,” says Sibeaux. “If we better understand how we navigate, how we function, then we can also understand whether (fish) have the capacity to cope with those changes.”


Read more: 5 of the most intelligent animals in the world


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