Photo credit: University of Richmond
Researchers at the University of Richmond in Virginia taught rats how to drive a miniature car in order to collect food, and surprisingly enough, the animals actually found it relaxing based on their corticosterone, a marker of stress, and dehydroepiandrosterone levels. The vehicle was crafted out of a clear plastic food container and mounted on a battery-powered, four-wheeled platform. Rats used three copper bars, which functioned as a steering wheel, to move forward when they stood on the aluminum floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws to trigger an electrical circuit. Read more for a video demonstration and additional information.
What happened? Well, six female and eleven male rats were rewarded for successfully driving with Fruit Loops cereal placed at increased distances. They may be more intelligent than once thought, but it will take a lot more testing before any automakers decide to build actual cars for rat owners.
They learned to navigate the car in unique ways and engaged in steering patterns they had never used to eventually arrive at the reward. I do believe that rats are smarter than most people perceive them to be and that most animals are smarter in unique ways than we think,” said psychology professor Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist who led the study.