Here is an interesting video showing the ability of chimpanzees to memorize and recall random patterns of light flashes better than what one in a thousand humans could do. All chimps seem to have this recall ability.

Play the video, it’s fascinating.

The Financial Times has a related story in Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’.

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers, Japanese scientists have shown.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, of Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, showed remarkable videos of chimpanzees displaying mental dexterity that would be way beyond most people.

The star performer among the institute’s 14 chimpanzees, a 12-year-old male called Ayumu, has learnt all the numerals from 1 to 19. Several other Kyoto chimpanzees have learnt 1 to 9.

When the numbers flash up in random places across a computer screen and in random order, and disappear after less than a second, the apes can point immediately to the exact locations where the numerals had been, in the correct numerical order.

Prof Matsuzawa said a few exceptional people, such as those with savant syndrome, might be capable of such memory feats but they are far beyond the average human brain. “One person in several thousand may be able to do this,” he said. “All the chimps I have tested can do it.”

Prof Matsuzawa, who combines the study of wild chimpanzees in west Africa with research using the captive colony in Kyoto, said such a good working memory – the ability to take in an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern – was an important survival tool in the wild.

For example, the apes can quickly assess and remember the distribution of edible fruit in a forest canopy. Or, when two rival bands of chimpanzees encounter one another, they can assess the strength of the rival group and decide whether to fight or flee.

Lumosity Games

A quick search led me to another video of Ayumu the chimpanzee, this time on Lumosity.Com.

Click on the link for an opportunity to see if you can beat Ayumu in a short-term memory test.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock