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Via suzanne, I learn that scientists have created mouse-human hybrids...well OK, the only hybrid part is a set of genes coding for human-type trichromatic color vision, otherwise they are mice.

Carl Zimmer's blog The Loom (syndicated at carlzimmer) contains an interesting discussion of the result - the mice's brains can actually interpret what they are seeing, even though their brains aren't specifically designed to interpret the extra color information.

http://scienceblogs.com/loom/2007/03/22/said_the_mouse_to_the_other_mo.php

Also it contains an image I couldn't resist iconifying.

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
wcg
Mar. 27th, 2007 11:33 am (UTC)
Perfect icon.
bastette_joyce
Mar. 27th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link - that is pretty cool. (Aside: before reading it, I winced, thinking "What are they doing to the poor mice now?" I'm a bit squicked by people creating phosphorescent rabbits, and so forth. But it doesn't appear that any harm has been done to these mice.)

One of the comments intrigued me, where the commenter asks if, due to the fact that trichromatic vision has been gained and lost throughout vertebrate and mammalian evolution, our brains have collectively preserved the ability to process it, so when the mice were bred for tricolor vision, presto, their brains switched on to process the three color channels? Makes you wonder what other potential capabilities our brains have, that we lack sensory organs to activate?
firecat
Mar. 27th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
Makes you wonder what other potential capabilities our brains have, that we lack sensory organs to activate?

Yeah! I vote that they inject some reptile or bee genes into some humans to find out...

(...and then we could make an entirely different movie called "Killer Bees"...)
bastette_joyce
Mar. 27th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah! I vote that they inject some reptile or bee genes into some humans to find out...

Are you volulnteering? :) (I know, you'll wait until they inject whisker and tail genes into humans before volunteering. :))

What's "gip", by the way?
firecat
Mar. 27th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
I think that the genes have to be injected before birth, otherwise I wouldn't mind volunteering. Just think, night vision without the need for those expensive goggles!

gip = "gratuitous icon post"
tedesson
Mar. 27th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)
There was a great presentation at Pycon about a project for modeling the visual cortex:

www.topographica.org

The way in which neurons change when exposed to signals, doesn't depend at all on what sort of signals they are, but more about how consistent the type of signal is. So, if there's a bit of contrast, the brain can learn to recognize it. If there's more types of contrast, for example by adding an additional color filter, then that's just more stuff to train on.

Brains are amazing things.
firecat
Mar. 27th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've been reading This Is Your Brain On Music and there's some discussion of that sort of thing. On the other hand the Loom blog says:
What's particularly intriguing about these results is that we--and other primates--have a special system of neurons called midget cells dedicated to distinguishing between red and green on the way to the brain.
I guess it's kind of like having an extra processor or something.
ruth_lawrence
Mar. 28th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
That their brains can process it anyway is more than passing strange, to me.

You know, I think the fact most of us humans can learn to read is very odd, too.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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