Scientists train rats to drive tiny car to reach their food

Cute white pet rat portrait with black background. Front on symmetrical view of face with paw under chin. Rattus norvegicus domestica.
Rats have been taught how to drive a miniature car (Getty/fie pic)

If the thought of rats scurrying around the ground sends shivers down your spine, then you may be alarmed to find out that they can now drive.

Scientists at the University of Richmond in Virginia have trained rodents to drive a miniature car to reach food - suggesting their brains are more flexible than previously thought.

According to New Scientist, the rats were placed in a car made out of a plastic container on wheels, with copper bars installed as a steering wheel.

Close-up young rats (Rattus norvegicus) sniffs leftovers on a plate on sink at the kitchen. Fight with rodents in the apartment. Extermination.
The rats were rewarded with food as they made their way around the driving arena (Getty/file pic)

They then managed to complete an electrical circuit in the vehicle, using the bars to steer them in different directions when required.

The rodents were rewarded with food every time they propelled the car forward, with more cereal placed around the rectangular arenas to encourage them to reach it on wheels.

Kelly Lambert, from the University of Richmond, said: “They learned to navigate the car in unique ways and engaged in steering patterns they had never used to eventually arrive at the reward.”

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She added: “I do believe that rats are smarter than most people perceive them to be, and that most animals are smarter in unique ways than we think.”

Scientists are now planning more complex driving exercises for the rats, which Ms Lambert says could help research into the effect of diseases like Parkinson’s on motor skills and spatial awareness.

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