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Rats taught to drive tiny cars to lower their stress levels

Learning to drive small cars helps rats feel less stressed, scientists found.

Researchers at the University of Richmond in the US taught a group of 17 rats how to drive little plastic cars, in exchange for bits of cereal.

How did they learn?

Dr Lambert and her colleagues built a tiny electric car by attaching a clear plastic jar to an aluminium plate, fitted to a set of wheels. A copper wire was then threaded horizontally across the jar – the cab of the car – to form three bars, left, right and centre.

To drive the car, a rat would sit on the aluminium plate and touch the copper wire. The circuit was then complete, and the animal could select the direction in which they wanted to travel.
After months of training, the rats learned not only how to make the ratmobile move but also how to change direction, researchers wrote in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

Some of the rats in the experiment had been raised in a lab, while others lived in “enriched environments” – that is, they had more natural habitats.

The rats raised in “enriched environments” were significantly better drivers than the lab rats.

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Rats drive tiny cars

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