Apparently, when the rats drive their little cars, they experience a reduction in stress. We’ll see how long that lasts when one of them is stuck behind some fella in a white van doing 60kph on the motorway.
The study tasked adult rats with learning how to pilot a pint-sized vehicle made out of a clear plastic container and a small car-like platform akin to a radio-controlled car. Inside the container, an aluminum plate and small metal bars gave the rodents the power to move the vehicle forward or steer it side to side based on what bars were touched.
To test how well the rats could learn the skill of driving, they were trained to associate touching the steering controls with a food reward. Then, food was placed at an elevated height that was only reachable from a tiny window in the “car,” and the rats had to drive the car to receive the treat. All the while, scientists monitored hormone levels associated with stress and relaxation.
Perhaps even more remarkable than the rats’ driving skills is the fact that driving the vehicles actually relaxed the rats. The ratio of relaxation-to-stress hormones in the animals increased, suggesting that learning the new skill actually provided the rats with satisfaction.
That animals are remarkably intelligent is not a new story, but it is still a story that is hugely underappreciated and denied by far too many people.
This is great.