That’s right: rats have learned how to drive thanks to a group of scientists at the Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Richmond.
This is good news for the continuation of life on Earth after the climate holocaust, nuclear holocaust, or whatever other world-ending event extinguishes the human race. At least when there are more abandoned cars than people, rats will be able to use their freakishly mutated paw-hands in order to keep on driving.
Researchers at the University of Richmond have taught rats how to drive. That’s a statement you probably weren’t expecting to hear, but really, it’s the culmination of all previous work done with rats. They can figure out mazes, remember objects, and make other complex conclusions based on their environment. Driving was the next logical step.
Published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, the study goes over how these rats were taught to drive using Froot Loops and a custom-built vehicle made from the discarded remains of a clear plastic food container, an RC car, and a plank of aluminum. Since rat paws aren’t all that good at steering, the controls were simplified to just three copper bars: one to go forward, one to go left, and one to go right. When the rat places its paws on the bar, it completes an electric circuit and causes the vehicle to go in that direction.
Six female and 11 male rats were then given driving lessons. The first lessons simply involved familiarizing the rats with the controls using Froot Loops. Just getting the car to move at all was rewarded with a piece of cereal. After that, the tasks became more complex; scientists placed targets around a 4 square-meter track and only gave out Froot Loops if the rat could drive to the target.
Best of all, the scientists found that the rats that learned how to drive were more relaxed than regular rats. They posited that this was due to a sense of rat-like accomplishment for learning a new skill, but the reality is likely more in line with the human feeling of freedom that can only come from riding with the top down on an open road.
(via New Scientist)