Thursday, April 02, 2015

Why didn't I get into rat research?

I've said it before, but again I say - what fun it sounds to be a scientist coming up with experiments about what goes on in rat minds.  This one shows how careful one has to be with rat interior decorating:
Prior research has shown that both and mice display unique facial characteristics when undergoing pain—they flatten their face, squint their eyes, move their whiskers and puff out their cheeks and nose. Scientists have even created rodent pain charts that allow us humans to gauge the amount of pain a rodent is in, simply by looking at its face. In this new research, the team sought to learn whether the same is true for other rats.

To find out, the researchers took photographs of rats, both face and whole body shots while they were feeling neutral, and others while the rats were given an to the foot—they also photo-shopped some of the photos to cause blurring of different body parts. Then, they created a special cage for a group of test rats that had never been used for any kinds of experiments before. The cage had multiple "rooms" each decorated with the photographs they had taken. One room, for example, had photos of rats in pain, another had rats with neutral faces. The rooms were all interconnected so that the rats could choose where to spend their time. After dropping rats one by one into the cage and noting their behavior (timing how much time they spent where) the researchers found that the rats spent the least amount of time in the room with unblurred full face and body shots of rats in pain and spent the most time in the rooms with walls adored with neutral faced rats. This, the researchers claim, shows that the rats were able to recognize the pain in the faces of the other rats and avoided them.
There was another rat cognition study reported recently:
Even rats can imagine: A new study finds that rats have the ability to link cause and effect such that they can expect, or imagine, something happening even if it isn't. 
Luckily, they haven't worked out how to imagine the consequences of eating rat bait in my ceiling, yet.  It's a great pity they can't just stay away from there...

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