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Great apes selectively retrieve relevant memories to guide action

Bobrowicz, Katarzyna LU ; Johansson, Mikael LU and Osvath, Mathias LU (2020) In Scientific Reports
Abstract
Memory allows us to draw on past experiences to inform behaviour in the present. However, memories rarely match the situation at hand exactly, and new situations regularly trigger multiple related memories where only some are relevant to act upon. The flexibility of human memory systems is largely attributed to the ability to disregard irrelevant, but salient, memories in favour of relevant ones. This is considered an expression of an executive function responsible for suppressing irrelevant memories, associated with the prefrontal cortex. It is unclear to what extent animals have access to this ability. Here, we demonstrate, in a series of tool-use tasks designed to evoke conflicting memories, that chimpanzees and an orangutan suffer from... (More)
Memory allows us to draw on past experiences to inform behaviour in the present. However, memories rarely match the situation at hand exactly, and new situations regularly trigger multiple related memories where only some are relevant to act upon. The flexibility of human memory systems is largely attributed to the ability to disregard irrelevant, but salient, memories in favour of relevant ones. This is considered an expression of an executive function responsible for suppressing irrelevant memories, associated with the prefrontal cortex. It is unclear to what extent animals have access to this ability. Here, we demonstrate, in a series of tool-use tasks designed to evoke conflicting memories, that chimpanzees and an orangutan suffer from this conflict but overcome it in favour of a more relevant memory. Such mnemonic flexibility is among the most advanced expressions of executive function shown in animals to date and might explain several behaviours related to tool-use, innovation, planning and more. (Less)
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author
; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
great apes, memory conflicts, animal cognition
in
Scientific Reports
article number
12603
publisher
Nature Publishing Group
external identifiers
  • scopus:85088655751
  • pmid:32724158
ISSN
2045-2322
DOI
10.1038/s41598-020-69607-6
project
Memory flexibility in preschoolers: transferring tool use despite misleading experiences
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
505341c6-e0db-43a4-8293-c8cda2790e07
date added to LUP
2020-07-28 16:54:04
date last changed
2020-10-28 03:00:24
@article{505341c6-e0db-43a4-8293-c8cda2790e07,
  abstract     = {Memory allows us to draw on past experiences to inform behaviour in the present. However, memories rarely match the situation at hand exactly, and new situations regularly trigger multiple related memories where only some are relevant to act upon. The flexibility of human memory systems is largely attributed to the ability to disregard irrelevant, but salient, memories in favour of relevant ones. This is considered an expression of an executive function responsible for suppressing irrelevant memories, associated with the prefrontal cortex. It is unclear to what extent animals have access to this ability. Here, we demonstrate, in a series of tool-use tasks designed to evoke conflicting memories, that chimpanzees and an orangutan suffer from this conflict but overcome it in favour of a more relevant memory. Such mnemonic flexibility is among the most advanced expressions of executive function shown in animals to date and might explain several behaviours related to tool-use, innovation, planning and more.},
  author       = {Bobrowicz, Katarzyna and Johansson, Mikael and Osvath, Mathias},
  issn         = {2045-2322},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {07},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Scientific Reports},
  title        = {Great apes selectively retrieve relevant memories to guide action},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69607-6},
  doi          = {10.1038/s41598-020-69607-6},
  year         = {2020},
}