This Will End Well: Scientists Train Rats To Drive Little Cars To Get Treats

October 24, 2019

Because all the major ride-sharing companies are desperate to finally turn a profit, scientists at the University Of Richmond have trained rats to drive small cars in order to reach Froot Loop cereal pieces as a reward. Shiiiiiit, I'd drive my car straight off a cliff for a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

They constructed a tiny car out of a clear plastic food container on wheels, with an aluminium floor and three copper bars functioning as a steering wheel. When a rat stood on the aluminium floor and gripped the copper bars with their paws, they completed an electrical circuit that propelled the car forward. Touching the left, centre or right bar steered the car in different directions.

The team encouraged the rats to advance their driving skills by placing the food rewards at increasingly distant points around the arena. "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.

The scientists also found that learning how to drive actually lowered the rats' stress levels, something they hope will aid "developing new non-pharmaceutical forms of treatment for mental illness" in the future. Fingers crossed that pans out. Man, I remember teaching an ex-girlfriend how to drive stick -- that was like, the exact opposite of stress reducing for both of us. I'm not sure I've ever been broken up with so many times in the span of a half hour. It was like a roller coaster, and not just because of the unintentional off-roading and throwing up after.

Keep going for the video while I remind myself to check my next Uber or Lyft driver for whiskers.

Thanks to Pamela J, who agrees you better just pray your future rat driver doesn't smell a piece of sidewalk pizza.

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