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Scientists Have Trained Pigeons to Detect Breast Cancer

Breast cancer diagnosis includes examining slides of breast tissue and noticing particular colors that indicate cancerous masses. Scientists have trained pigeons who may be able to take over this responsibility from human medical technicians.

Dr. Richard Levenson of the University of California at Davis led a study that showed breast tissue slides to pigeons. These birds were rewarded with food if they correctly noticed spots of color indicative of cancer. The Daily Telegraph reports:

In 15 daily sessions, each an hour long, the pigeons got the right answer 85 per cent of the time - with accuracy levels increased to 99 per cent when responses from a panel of four pigeons were pooled.

These results are likely due to pigeons’ remarkable visual acuity:

Pigeons' ability to interpret complex visual stimuli has been well-researched over the years. Previous studies have established that the birds are able to discriminate between letters of the alphabet, the identities and emotional expressions of human faces - and they can even tell the difference between paintings by Monet and Picasso.


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