Tags: Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | Anxiety | Depression | rats | stress | mental health

Driving Tiny Cars Helped Rats Feel Less Stressed

rats eating scraps
(Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 24 October 2019 10:25 PM

Rats raised in an "enriched environment" with ladders, toys, balls, pieces of wood, and a "rat-operated vehicle" showed an increase in improved emotional resilience, according to new findings published in Behavioural Brain Research.

The study could help in developing new non-pharmaceutical forms of treatment for mental illness, says senior author Kelly Lambert of the University of Richmond.

"The rat is an appropriate model for the human brain in many ways since it has all the same areas and neurochemicals as the human brain — just smaller, of course," Lambert said. "Although humans are more complex than rats, we look for 'universal truths' about how brains interact with environments to maintain optimal mental health."

Lambert and her colleagues constructed a tiny car out of clear plastic food containers on wheels. Seventeen rats were trained to drive the car – they were rewarded with Froot Loop cereal pieces when they touched the steering bars and drove the car forward – and learning to drive seemed to relax the rats.

"They learned to navigate the car in unique ways and engaged in steering patterns they had never used to eventually arrive at the reward," Lambert said.

Researchers then assessed the rats' feces and found an elevated level of the stress hormone corticosterone as well as dehydroepiandrosterone, which counters stress.

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Rats raised in an "enriched environment" with ladders, toys, balls, pieces of wood, and a "rat-operated vehicle" showed an increase in improved emotional resilience, according to new findings published in Behavioural Brain Research.
rats, stress, mental health, care, research
216
2019-25-24
Thursday, 24 October 2019 10:25 PM
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