NBC reports that researchers at the University of Richmond have announced a new study aimed at understanding the link between complex task performance and mental health, having rats drive tiny cars and measuring their anxiety levels. So far, the researchers have found that the car-driving rats are experiencing lowered stress hormone levels, but mostly I enjoy watching them drive around.
Researchers reportedly trained the rats to drive using Fruit Loops as incentive, putting them in see-thru cars with copper bar steering wheels, and measuring their stress and stress-busting hormone levels using their poop. Though I am not sold on the use of lab rats, it seems like these particular rats, are quite happy, provided they are in the driver’s seat.
“We concluded that the rats that actually learned to drive had a greater sense of control over their environment that was accompanied by increased DHEA — something like a rodent version of what we refer to as self-efficacy or agency in humans,” Lambert said in a statement.
The scientists orchestrating this study hope it will help researchers find ways to mitigate anxiety and depression in human brains, which are apparently quite similar to rat brains, only a bit bigger. Though, as a resident of New York City, I can only hope the rats that live in the garbage alley directly outside my window don’t ever see this blog post. We have enough traffic problems in my neighborhood as it is.