Rats find driving tiny cars relaxing, scientists report

Greg Evans
Friday 25 October 2019 07:45
Viral

It might sound like it has come straight from the mind of Garth Marenghi but rats are now driving cars.

Yes, there are a lot of strange things going on in the world right now but that last thing you expected to read today is a story about rats driving cars in order to lower their stress levels.

Remarkably this is actually a thing that is going on in the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA, where a group of 17 rats are being taught how to drive small plastic cars, where they receive pieces of cereal as a reward.

The purpose of this is to learn more about what relaxes rats and find out how what can be done to develop non-pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness and lowering their stress levels.

Talking to AFP news, Dr. Kelly Lambert said:

There's no cure for schizophrenia or depression, and we need to catch up.

I think we need to look at different animal models and different types of tasks and really respect that behaviour can change our neurochemistry.

While the science behind the study is undoubtedly interesting, the question on everyone's lips is definitely: 'how are the rats driving the cars?'

A copper wire runs across the jar that comprises the body of the car and forms three bars on the left, right and centre of the miniature vehicle.

The rat, who is sitting on an aluminium plate on the bottom of the car then touches the copper wire to select what direction they can go in.

That being said, the rats didn't immediately learn how to drive the cars but did undergo training, which was documented in Behavioural Brain Research, journal.

The results found that those that lived in so-called 'enriched environments' - i.e. more natural habits, were actually better drivers than rats raised in labs.

After the rats were done the scientists studied the rodent's excrement for the stress hormone corticosterone and the anti-stress hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone.

Amazingly, the rats were found to have higher levels of dehydroepiandrosterone after driving around in tiny cars.

We don't really think that this would happen with humans but if you want to check your poo after driving on the North Circular for an hour then be our guest.

HT BBC News

More: The truth behind the viral video of a rat taking a shower

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