Rats Learned How To Drive Tiny Cars In Order To Collect Food

October 24, 2019

Today we learned rats can master the art of driving a car — thanks to Froot Loops and new research by scientists at the University of Richmond.

rats driving cars
Credit: University of Richmond

Kelly Lambert and her colleagues wondered if rats could learn the more sophisticated task of operating a moving vehicle.

So, they built a rat-sized car out of a plastic container with an aluminum base and three copper bars which functioned as the steering wheel.

When a rat gripped the copper bars an electrical circuit propelled the car forward. Gripping the left, center or right bar steered the car in that direction.

If the rats drove to the destination, they were rewarded with Froot Loops.

"They learned to navigate the car in unique ways and engaged in steering patterns they had never used to eventually arrive at the reward," says Lambert, head of the University of Richmond's Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory.

 

But the real discovery in the study was found in their stool.

In sifting through their fecal matter, Lambert found both groups of rats trained to drive secreted higher levels of hormones that control stress responses.

Learning to drive seemed to relax the rats.

"It is likely that driving gives the rats a sense of control over their environment," Lambert said. "In humans, we would say that it enhances a sense of agency or self-efficacy."

Watch the video below.

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