Rats Can Learn to Drive Mini-Cars & It Reduces Their Stress Levels


University of Richmond scientists have taught rats to drive mini cars dubbed "RatCars"--and, besides being utterly adorable, the phenomenon could help researchers analyze human anxiety and depression. “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,” Kelly Lambert, professor of behavioral neuroscience, said in a statement. “Although humans are more complex than rats, we look for ‘universal truths’ about how brains interact with environments to maintain optimal mental health.” Mastering the tiny vehicles--which are powered by an electrical current created by the rats putting their paws on a copper bar--made the rodents less anxious, as measured by their stress hormone levels. Interestingly enough, passenger rats riding around in cars they didn't have control over weren't quite as chill. “The training itself changed the hormones in a healthy trajectory,” Lambert said. “Therefore, we found that driving training led to more resilient stress hormone profiles.”


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