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Rats Are Being Taught To Drive!

They’ve been able to teach rats to jump through hoops, solve mazes, and even play hide and seek. Now they are training rats to drive cars!

Professor Kelly Lambert, of the University of Richmond, just published a journal article titled “Enriched Environment Exposure Accelerates Rodent Driving Skills”.

Her research team built a tiny car made of a clear plastic food container. It was set on wheels, with an aluminum floor, and it has three copper bars that function as a steering wheel. They were able to train a total of 17 rats to drive around in rectangular-shaped arenas. The rats that passed their driver education program were rewarded with Fruit Loops!

“They learned to navigate the car in unique ways and engaged in steering patterns they had never used to eventually arrive at the reward,” says Professor Lambert.

Here are some key points they learned in this study:

  • The brains of rats are more flexible than previously thought.
  • Rats that participated in the study developed healthier stress hormone profiles.
  • Rats that were housed in complex and enriched environments (i.e., environments with interesting objects to interact with) were able to learn how to drive. Other rats, that were housed in standard laboratory cages, flunked the driving tests. Professor Lambert said, “That means the complex living environment led to more flexibility and neuroplasticity.This reminds us that our brains are constantly changing in response to our environments – and that we’re accountable for maintaining our brains moment to moment.” 

    This is an interesting study. However, let’s hope that none of these car-driving rats are able to escape from the lab. Just think of what the police will say when you tell them that a rat stole your car! Before this happens, maybe you should call us to schedule a rodent inspection at (949) 631-7348