A Chicken Model for Studying the Emergence of Invariant Object Recognition
Samantha M.W. Wood and Justin N. Wood
University of Southern California
"Invariant Object Recognition" refers to the ability to recognize objects across variation in their appearance on the retina. This ability is central to visual perception, yet its developmental origins are poorly understood. Traditionally, nonhuman primates, rats, and pigeons have been the most commonly used animal models for studying invariant object recognition. Although these animals have many advantages as model systems, they are not well suited for studying the emergence of invariant object recognition in the newborn brain. Here, we argue that newly hatched chicks (Gallus gallus) are an ideal model system for studying the emergence of invariant object recognition. Using an automated controlled-rearing approach, we show that chicks can build a viewpoint-invariant representation of the ﬁrst object they see in their life. This invariant representation can be built from highly impoverished visual input (three images of an object separated by 15° azimuth rotations) and cannot be accounted for by low-level retina-like or V1-like neuronal representations. These results indicate that newborn neural circuits begin building invariant object representations at the onset of vision and argue for an increased focus on chicks as an animal model for studying invariant object recognition.