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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Roaches

Reuters

HONG KONG -- Cockroaches have a memory and can be taught to salivate in response to neutral stimuli in the way that Pavlov's dogs would do when the famed Russian doctor rang his bell, Japanese researchers found.

Such "conditioning" can only take place when there is memory and learning, and this salivating response had only previously been proven in humans and dogs. Now, cockroaches appear to have that aptitude too.

Writing in the online journal Public Library of Science, the researchers said they hoped to learn more about the human brain by exploring what goes on in the simpler brain of the cockroach.

"Understanding the brain mechanism of learning in insects can help us to understand the functionings in the human brain. There are many, many common characteristics," said Makoto Mizunami, of Tohoku University School of Life Sciences.

In the experiment, the scientists exposed a group of cockroaches to an odor whenever they fed them a sugar solution. They found that when they later exposed the cockroaches to the odor alone, they still drooled.

"Sure, cockroaches can remember and learn," Mizunami said.

In the 1890s, Russian doctor Ivan Pavlov conducted research into what is now known as "classical conditioning" with dogs. He used bells to call dogs to their food, and, after a few repetitions, the dogs began to salivate in response to the bells alone.