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According to new research, rhesus monkeys can sense when their hearts are beating, a trait tied to mental health, consciousness, and memory in humans.

The ability to sense physiological states like a heartbeat, breathing, or blushing, is called interoception. Interoception is the perception of sensations inside the body like heartbeat and respiration. Scientists in the past found that rhesus monkeys could be trained to increase and decrease their heart rates. However, we still did not know if monkeys were able to sense their bodily signals until now.

Human babies and monkeys both look at unexpected or novel things for longer than they look at expected things. The study used the same method as a previous test to tell whether human babies could sense their heartbeats. Monkeys were shown videos of a bouncing cloud or star that was in sync or out of sync with their heartbeats.

Source: The Conversation/Youtube

The monkeys sat in front of a computer and were hooked up to electrocardiograms to monitor their heartbeats. They either saw a video with a yellow or green cloud bouncing up and down with beeping sounds. Sometimes the bouncing and beeping were synched to match the monkey’s heart rate, and other times it was out of sync.

The red dot in the experiment is the eye tracker that measured how long the monkeys looked at the images. Researchers found that if monkeys had a sense of their heartbeats, they could find the in-sync bouncing less interesting than the out-of-sync bouncing.

The four monkeys that were tested looked at the out-of-sync bounces significantly longer, and they found astounding connections between the results from human babies and monkeys.

Heartbeat detection tests are used to evaluate how aware of body signals people are. The findings mean that monkeys and people have a similar sense of heartbeats.

Some people are more aware of their heartbeats than others, so next, the researchers plan to test whether, like humans, some monkeys are better at sensing their heartbeats than others.

This research is groundbreaking and could assist further in establishing the causes behind many health challenges that are caused by interoception, like mental health disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and aging. Sign this petition to help save monkeys from being tested in labs!

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