Paging Dr. Pigeon; You’re Needed in Radiology

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The New York Times.

Dogs that detect cancer? Check. Fruit flies can do it? Check.

Now pigeons?

Well, yes. Pigeons have excellent vision and, it turns out, can be trained to identify malignant and benign breast tumors pretty much as a radiologist or a pathologist would — by looking at a mammogram or a slide from a biopsy.

Researchers at the University of Iowa and elsewhere experimented with 16 birds. All had participated in studies before, so presumably they knew the drill: They get food when they pick right, nothing when they pick wrong. Figure out what the nice people are looking for, or stay hungry.

The scientists put the pigeons in little boxes with touch-sensitive monitors that showed slides of breast tissue. Then the scientists trained them to peck a blue rectangle when they saw benign tissue and a yellow one when the slide showed malignant tissue.

In one experiment, the handlers gave the birds slides in color and black-and-white, and…

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