Researchers Train Rats How to Drive

Monday, October 28, 2019 - 14:56

Researchers from University of Richmond have empowered rats to drive cars.

According to the New Scientist report, the research team put some clear plastic containers on wheels, devised a steering mechanism out of copper wires, and put 17 rats to the test in small, enclosed driving areas. The rats that hit the target were given Froot Loops as well-deserved treats.

Richmond's researchers tested the rats' feces for two chemicals during the study: Stress-causing corticosterone and stress-relieving dehydroepiandrosterone. The ratio of good stuff to bad stuff in the fecal tests increased in the rats who got to drive the car, while rats who simply rode along as passengers operated at less healthy levels.

In other words, rats who felt like they had more control over their environments produced less stress-inducing chemicals. On a broad level, one could connect the dots between that and the way the human brain works. The feeling of agency that comes with learning a new skill is generally a positive one, Mashable reports.

Dr. Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Richmond, explained that rat studies are good for understanding human brains because they essentially work with a smaller version of what we've got. All in all, it sounds like it was a positive experience for the researchers.

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