Perception Journal Club

Do rats perceive biological motion?

It is unknown whether the rodent visual system can perceive biological motion, an ability present in primates, cats, and several bird species. Using a water-maze visual discrimination task, we find that rats can be trained to distinguish between left- and rightward motion of abstract point-light displays of walking humans. However, rats were unable to generalize to a novel point-light display (a walking cat), or to a display of a backward walking human, where overall body configuration and local, ballistic foot motion provide directly opposing cues regarding movement direction. Together, these experiments provide the first demonstration of the ability of rodents to extract motion direction cues from abstract, point-light displays. However, when isolated, neither the overall body configuration nor the local motion of the feet appears to provide sufficient information for rats to reliably extract movement direction in biological motion displays.