By: Douglas Main
Boston -- Chimpanzees may have more smarts than humans, at least
regarding short-term memories, new research suggests.
researcher presented a
video showing the remarkable abilities of a chimpanzee named Ayumu, here
at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS) Thursday (Feb. 14). When the numbers 1 through 9 appeared
randomly on a screen and then disappeared, the chimpanzee was able to recall
the exact sequence and location of each number. Ayumu has also learnt
numbers 1 through 19 and is able to touch each one in ascending order, which
hasn't been shown before, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a researcher at Kyoto
University's Primate Research Institute, told Livescience.
Matsuzawa showed the video to a room of scientists and journalists, murmurs
of amazement were heard. "Don't worry, nobody can do it," Matsuzawa said,
with an almost mischievous smile. "It's impossible for you."
A select few
humans have such abilities, but these are typically people with savant
syndrome, which is accompanied by severe mental disabilities; it's simply
beyond the powers of an ordinary human, Matsuzawa said. On the other hand,
six out of six chimpanzees tested could rapidly remember the location and
order of nine digits, he said.
Amazing Non-Human Primate Abilities)
This incredible short-term (or
helps chimpanzees survive in the wild, where they often must make rapid
and complex decisions. Working memory is an active form of short-term
memory, a mental workspace that allows the brain to juggle multiple thoughts
For chimps, the amazing working memory likely helps
the animals navigate the branches of huge trees to feed, for example, or
decide what to do when competing groups of animals are threatening one
another, he said.