Scientists train rats to drive tiny cars to collect Froot Loops

Image credits University of Richmond

Image credits University of Richmond

That's a feat on its own.

The scientists at the University of Richmond's Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory said they trained two groups of rats to operate the "rat-operated vehicle", or ROV, which works by having the rats push down on a copper bar that propels the tiny auto forward.

Video from the Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Richmond shows little rats driving little rat-sized vehicles. Moving the auto forward usually led the rats to a sugar treat of Froot Loops.

Whenever the rats touched and drove the plastic auto forward, they were rewarded with Froot Loops.

First, rats who lived in a more stimulating environment were better drivers. Their unstimulated cage counterparts effectively "failed their driving test", Lambert said. While typically known for the ability to recognize objects and work their way around mazes, the research found that rats were not only able to perform the complex task of driving a tiny vehicle but also felt more relaxed when doing so.

"Beyond the adorableness, there's a real scientific value", he said, noting that the rats likely used various parts of their brains to drive toward their treats.

"Those data suggest that we gain "experiential capital" if we have challenging, dynamic lifestyles that transfer to learning acquisition," Lambert said.

Google Maps to show location of police speed traps
The new feature, now available on the iOS app, allows users to report and pin locations along their route that hinder the flow of traffic .

Continuous stress in humans can severely affect a person's immune, digestive and reproductive systems, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The brains of humans and rats share almost all of the same areas and neurochemicals - they're just smaller in rodents.

Rats may be smarter than we think, with a team of researchers able to train them to drive a tiny vehicle. The researchers say that the research may help them in learning more about neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses such as Parkinson's and depression.

It's a concept Lambert refers to as "behaviorceuticals", activities that release hormones that can ward off prolonged stress brought on by corticosterone.

Lambert explained that this discovery could be used in important research, specifically into how learning new skills relieves stress, interacts with psychiatric or neurological conditions, or affects mental capabilities.

To support their findings, the researchers studied the levels of two stress-related hormones found in the rats' poop.

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