Science: What Driving Rats Can Tell Us About Ourselves


Posted on August 21, 2022 at 8:44 AMScience: What driving rats can teach us about ourselves. Groundbreaking project explores how environmental enrichment shapes the brain. Groundbreaking project explores how environmental enrichment shapes the brain. , before placing his paw on a lever and speeding away. Rushing to his destination, he devours a well-deserved gift. University of Richmond rats wowed the world in 2019 with their ability to drive miniature cars. Now they are part of a ground-breaking project that explores how environmental enrichment shapes the brain and could ultimately help solve problems in human mental health: ‘the intelligence and learning ability of these animals’ , explains Kelly Lambert, director of the university’s behavioral study. neuroscience lab, which tries to maintain a healthy scientific distance from its rodents by naming them only by the streak of colored marker applied to their tails Drug approaches One of the great failures of modern medicine, for Kelly Lambert, is the his inability to heal them. mental illnesses with the help of drugs, although pharmaceutical companies are making profits in this field, these pharmaceutical approaches are increasingly questioned, after the publication in July of a large study that questioned the theory that a ue chemical imbalance, in particular the lack of serotonin, would cause depression. “Workers” and “anius” Instead, Kelly Lambert sees behavioral therapy as a key to treating the mind, hence the study of small mammals. “Our brains are changing from the womb to the grave,” he says, explaining that having an active life — in one way or another — can affect the capacity for depression. stressful tasks, the group of workers persisted longer than those conditioned to remain in a state that psychologists call “learned helplessness”. And when they had to swim, the workers had a hormonal response that indicated greater emotional resilience, which could be related to the satisfaction of learning new skills, according to Kelly Lambert. “They make trails in the wild that go downhill all the time, and we wanted to see if they were able to maintain this excellent sense of direction in a vehicle,” says researcher Olivia Harding. control with their snouts, before scientists discovered they preferred to stand on their hind legs and use their front legs to drive. Advanced cognitive ability Even when their car was in an unusual position, with its back to the reward, the rodents managed to steer their vehicle in the right direction and reach the treat, evidence of advanced cognitive ability. Today’s pilots, “Black Tail” and “Multicolored Tail”, show “anticipation” by moving about the arrival of humans, walking and trying to climb the walls of their cages. Like humans, not all rats have the same interests: while some seem to enjoy driving alone, others do it just for the reward, and a third group don’t even bother. (AFP)
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