October 23, researches at the University of Richmond in Virginia announced they have been training rats to drive tiny cars, with implications for human research as well.
According to professor of behavioral neuroscience, Kelly Lambert, the reason why rats were picked was that “The rat is an appropriate model for the human brain in many ways since it has all the same areas and neurochemicals as the human brain — just smaller, of course.”
Junior Joseph Basilio said, “Rats could be used for more experiments that could allow for more reactions to driving, but using more extensive techniques.”
This experiment has helped the rats relieve stress. According to the BBC “All of the rats had higher levels of dehydroepiandrosterone, which the scientists believe could be linked to the satisfaction of having learned a new skill.”
Senior Thaddus Tanner relates to these rats in recognizing the stress-reducing effects of driving., “I drive fast enough to where I don’t have stress, but I’m also a good driver,” said Tanner.
Seeing this achievement in brain research may be helpful for a way to address depression or schizophrenia in humans.
However this is just the early stages of what types of animals this works on and how well it works on them. Chemistry teacher, Ms.Ngou said, “This is really interesting for rats’ cognitive ability, because they can maneuver a machine however they want.”
Enrichment environments were the key to the lab rats becoming better drivers, and were raised in those environments too. These environments could also help humans too with anxiety and stress while driving or in general.
The car itself was made with a plastic container and used copper wires to move the car in the direction the rat chose. The rat moved to where the food was located on the mat, as the researchers were moving it, to make the rat use more cognitive thought to move to the food.
Videos of the rats participating in the experiment were popularized on social media by people curious or entertained by the idea of these rats learning a human skill.
All the data was collected by the rats feces containing hormones that reduces stress.
Whether it be the newest way of travel or robotics, rats will still and have always been there to change the field of science, even in tiny cars.