Rats can drive cars.
Not your car or my car. (Their legs really wouldn’t reach the pedals, after all.)
Rather, researchers have created tiny cars just for their lab rats and certain experiments and have taught the little critters how to drive. To go right, left or straight, the rats simply have to touch a bar to complete an electrical circuit. They received Froot Loops as a motivating reward for learning driving skills.
I don’t know how you feel about this, but I’m definitely not for empowering rodents (or sharing Froot Loops with them). They have plenty of power as it is. They can cause grown women (and probably some men) to jump up on chairs and shriek. And anyone who has had a mouse in the house knows how much power they have in terms of destruction and defecation.
So, no, I’m not for giving rats any more power, even though researchers claim that these experiments could lead to treatment for depression. It’s not that I’m against treatment for depression. Such treatment would be a good thing, but I don’t think that these driving-rat experiments are the way to go about it.
Researchers concluded that driving might combat depression by testing the rats’ feces for certain hormones that control stress. As the driving-rodent experiment ramped up, so did the concentration of stress-controlling hormones in the rats’ poop.
Thus, researchers claimed, learning the new task of driving increased “emotional resilience.” And although rat brains are not as advanced as human brains, the brains have similarities, so researchers believe that they can use this rodent research and apply it to humans to find ways to combat depression.
I hate to be a naysayer, but I have to say it: Nay, nay, nay.
It would be great if scientists could find a cure for depression, but if they think that a cure in any way involves driving, then I think that they are definitely on the wrong road.
Driving is stressful. Polls have shown this, but, more importantly, common sense dictates this. There are traffic concerns, insurance concerns, vehicle cost concerns and road condition concerns. If you need any more proof, consider this: the stresses of driving have led to the coinage of the term “road rage.”
Rats don’t have any of the concerns that humans have. They don’t have to worry about increased insurance rates for the next three years if they are involved in a fender bender. They don’t have to worry about getting to work while their vehicle is in the shop for two weeks if they smash in their front end.
And they certainly don’t have to worry about paying for their own vehicle. Perhaps these are the reasons that the rats in the experiment exhibited no road rage.
Now, if the researchers took away the Froot Loops, that might be a different story. I think that a lot of the results of the tests can be attributed to the Froot Loops.
I don’t know if the rats continued to receive Froot Loops every time they drove, but, if so, perhaps the elevated levels of stress-reducing hormones could be more conclusively tied to the fruity cereal than to the driving. I know that I feel a lot calmer after a bowl of Froot Loops.
If the researchers simply want to conclude that accomplishing any new task is self-satisfying and depression-reducing, well, I would agree there. But so would virtually any nonscientist. We certainly don’t need rodent cars or even Froot Loops to figure that one out.
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