A team of behavioral neuroscientists led by University of Richmond’s Professor Kelly Lambert taught rats how to drive specially-designed ROVs.
“The driver compartment of the ROV was a plastic container with an aluminum floor plate and cut out windows spanned by copper bars,” they explained. (Kinda like a Kia or Fiat?)
“The ROV was designed so that the rat could move the car by touching or grabbing a bar and stop movement by releasing contact.” (No self-driving technology?)
The research involved five young adult male rats (Female rats don’t need enrichment to learn) that had lived in an enriched environment (i.e., environment with interesting objects to interact with) for four months and six control rats raised in standard laboratory housing.
Driving training began when the animals were approximately 5 months of age. (Legal rat-age to acquire learner permits)
Compared to standard-housed rats, enriched-housed rats demonstrated more robust learning in driving performance. (It’s long been known that standard-house-wives need enrichment too.)
“We found that rats housed in a complex, enriched environment learned the driving task, but rats housed in standard laboratory cages had problems learning the task (i.e., they failed their driving test),” Professor Lambert said.
“That means the complex environment led to more behavioral flexibility and neuroplasticity.”
“Among other outcomes, the research could help scientists better understand the effects of Parkinson’s disease
(The next time you see a rat driving erratically, smile. They’ve learned how to escape from the lab and go joy riding.)
Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.
A paper describing the research was published October 16, 2019 in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.