Thursday, October 24, 2019

Scientists train rats to drive miniature cars (photos)

Scientists have trained rats to drive miniature cars.

Researchers in Virginia have created the rat-operated vehicle (ROV) to test the creatures’ abilities as well as the effect on them of learning a complex skill.

Eleven male rats and six females were taught to drive the electric ROV, which moved forward when the rat grasped wire “handle bars”.

In the first phase, the rodents learnt to enter the vehicle and drive forward in a straight line to retrieve a reward of Froot Loops cereal.


The researchers established that rats could then be trained to steer by touching different bars to move straight ahead and left or right, to reach a preferred snack 140cm away. The car reached a top speed of 1.1mph.

Researchers found that rats reared in better cages with more toys and items to provide stimulation were the first to pass their “driving test”.

Kelly Lambert, of the University of Richmond, said: “Most of [the rats] learnt to drive to the goal, but not consistently enough to pass the experimental driving test. When trained more often, however, even the rats housed in standard housing conditions learnt to drive.

“This reminds us that our brains are dependent on interactive, engaging environments to facilitate optimal performance. Our neural networks crave informative experiences like our lungs crave air to function.”



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