Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pigeons: More than meets the eye.

Image from Wikipedia 

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with Sjogren's Disease. Also: Who cares?

Here's an interesting little tidbit of information: Pigeons can spot breast cancer in medical images about equally as well as humans do.

Say WHAT?! So I'm wondering about a couple of things. First, what kind of scientist would even wonder if these feathery bird brains had that specific capability? Secondly, how did he or she train them to do this?

And the biggest head-scratcher of all: so what are they planning to do with this discovery? Even the researchers concede that there would be big obstacles in hiring the grey winged wonders:
"And even for the lower-level tasks where the birds matched human abilities, there would be huge regulatory and legal hurdles to actually using them in diagnosis."
I don't even want to hypothesize what legal wording would look like when discussing pigeons and medical imagery and cancer in the same sentence. And would the regulations include pigeons wearing birdie diapers? And white lab coats? 

Here's the link to the story by Read it and you can formulate your own questions: 

In lab tests, common pigeons were taught to read some of the same subtle cues in x-rays and microscope slides that medical professionals look for to distinguish between healthy and cancerous tissue. After just over two weeks of training, the pigeons could make the correct diagnosis 85 percent of the time, an astonishing level of accuracy that rivals the performance of human pathologists.
While you won't be booking an appointment with a pigeon doctor anytime soon, the results suggest that the birds could play a role in evaluating new medical imaging techniques and creating better display technologies.
“Pigeons may not be able to write poetry, but they’ve had millions of years to develop the abilities that they need to navigate a very complicated and dangerous world,” quips study leader Richard Levenson, a professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of California, Davis. “So it doesn’t surprise me that they can do pathology!”
Read more here


Heda said...

How amazing. Birds are very clever.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, isn't it!

Miscellaneous piece of information from this brain. I remember reading that in WWII, I think, pigeons were trained with similar success to find camouflaged objects in aerial photos. What ever the project was, it was militarily important, and the pigeons were excellent at the task.