US scientists have reported successfully training a group of the rodents to drive tiny cars in exchange for bits of Froot Loops cereal, and found that learning the task lowered their stress levels.
The senior author of the University of Richmond Kelly Lambert ststed that the study not only shows the state of the rats brains vut it can also help in developing new non- pharmaceutical forms of treatment for mental illness.
She and colleagues modified a robot car kit by adding a clear plastic food container to form a driver compartment with an aluminum plate placed on the bottom.A copper wire was threaded horizontally across the cab to form three bars: left, center and right.When a rat placed itself on the aluminum floor and touched the wire, the circuit was complete and the car moved in the direction selected.
Seventeen rats were trained over several months to drive around an arena 150 centimeters by 60 centimeters made of plexiglass.
Lambert found that all rats that underwent training had higher levels dehydroepiandrosterone, indicating a more relaxed state, which could be linked to the satisfaction of gaining mastery over a new skill, referred to as “self-efficacy” or “agency” in humans.