Published: Thu, November 09, 2017
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

Humans and monkeys can now extend a warm welcome to sheep for joining us in being able to recognize human faces from photographs. One was a celebrity it had seen before, and one was a photo of a non-celebrity who looked similar and had the same gender and ethnicity. Out of the all the shown photos, the sheep chose celebrities Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and United Kingdom television journalist Fiona Bruce.

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.

Tapping on the "correct" portrait would reward the sheep with food while choosing the wrong face would result in no food and a sound being played.

The sheep would nuzzle up close to their chosen screen, where they would trigger an infrared sensor releasing a treat, if they had chosen correctly.

The sheep even recognized Emma Watson at a different angle. Later, they were able to recognize the images for which they had been rewarded.

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Researchers consider facial recognition as one of the most important human social skills.

The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment. However, the ability of sheep to identify faces was unclear.

Sheep can be trained to recognize celebrities like Barack Obama and Jake Gyllenhaal, new research shows. "That means they can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain - such as Huntington's disease - that develop over a long time and affect [mental] abilities", Morton said.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. Scientists now found that that ability can be applied to photos of famous faces, too, Sky News reported. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times.

"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change", Morton said.

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