Bird breast cancer

Pathologists and radiologists spend years acquiring and refining their medically essential visual skills, so it is of considerable interest to understand how this process actually unfolds and what image features and properties are critical for accurate diagnostic performance. Key insights into human behavioral tasks can often be obtained by using appropriate animal models. We report here that pigeons Columba livia —which share many visual system properties with humans—can serve as promising surrogate observers of medical images, a capability not previously documented. The birds proved to have a remarkable ability to distinguish benign from malignant human breast histopathology after training with differential food reinforcement; even more importantly, the pigeons were able to generalize what they had learned when confronted with novel image sets. Turning to radiology, the birds proved to be similarly capable of detecting cancer-relevant microcalcifications on mammogram images. However, when given a different and for humans quite difficult task—namely, classification of suspicious mammographic densities masses —the pigeons proved to be capable only of image memorization and were unable to successfully generalize when shown novel examples.
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Using Pigeons to Diagnose Cancer

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Pigeons (Columba livia) as Trainable Observers of Pathology and Radiology Breast Cancer Images

NEW YORK Reuters Health - Years of schooling and training are needed to teach pathologists and radiologists to spot cancer on medical images, but a new study finds that pigeons can be about as accurate as these professionals, with the help of a few food pellets. People don't have to worry about bird brains diagnosing their cancers any time soon, but the study's lead researcher says pigeons may have a future standing in for pathologists and radiologists in the kinds of mind-numbing studies of new technologies that involve examining thousands of images. Birds don't have the luxury to be irritated. Levenson thought of experimenting with birds when he heard about work by Dr. Edward Wasserman of the University of Iowa and colleagues that found pigeons' visual recall is similar to that of humans. Levenson teamed up with Dr. Wasserman for the new study, which put pigeons through three sets of tests.
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When it comes to breast cancer, common pigeon is no bird brain

By Sam Wong. Job opportunities for pigeons have been few and far between since electronic communication made their skills as messengers obsolete. But now it seems they could be put to work analysing medical images. So says the team who trained pigeons to distinguish between healthy and cancerous breast tissue. Richard Levenson at the University of California, Davis, and his colleagues showed pigeons microscope images of breast tissue.
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Become a UC Advocate. Receive email alerts about issues that are important to UC and contact your legislators to ensure the university remains a hub of opportunity, excellence, and innovation. The pigeons also learned to correctly identify cancer-relevant microcalcifications on mammograms, but they had a tougher time classifying suspicious masses on mammograms — a task that is extremely difficult, even for skilled human observers. According to Edward Wasserman, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Iowa, co-author of the study, the common pigeon Columba livia has a tremendous capacity to discriminate and categorize a wide range of objects and images.
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