Wind in the willows is now a reality. Researchers in Virginia have created a tiny rat operated vehicle and taught them to drive. Using food as a reward and encourage them into and then press on a small aluminium pedal to move the vehicle. Rats could drive in a forward direction and follow more complex patterns.
The researchers discovered those rats that lived in more ‘enriched’ environments (they were given toys and trinkets to spark mental stimulation) were slightly better drivers than rats who lived in standard empty environments. All rats were found to have higher levels of the anti-stress hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, which is believed to be as a result of learning a new skill.
Dr Lambert told AFP news agency that the findings could prove useful for future research into treatments for different psychiatric conditions.
“There’s no cure for schizophrenia or depression, and we need to catch up,” she said.
“I think we need to look at different animal models and different types of tasks and really respect that behaviour can change our neurochemistry.”