Tips&TricksHarvard study finds surprising evidence. Rats are not only clean and sociable, but also imaginative

Harvard study finds surprising evidence. Rats are not only clean and sociable, but also imaginative

Rat with food in its mouth
Rat with food in its mouth
Images source: © Getty Images | andwill

6:54 PM EST, January 17, 2024

Do you dislike rats? You're not alone. There are numerous myths attributing unpleasant characteristics to them, such as being dirty, nasty, or aggressive. On the contrary, rats are exceptionally clean, sociable, and notably intelligent. This has been confirmed by extensive scientific research.

Harvard University scientists have demonstrated that rats can employ their imaginations to recreate previous experiences in their minds. This groundbreaking discovery further reinforces their intelligence. After reading this article, your perspective on rats may change drastically.

Scientific research confirms rats have imagination

The study, conducted by Harvard University researchers, revealed that rats are capable of mentally revisiting places they have been to before, much like when humans reminisce about past travels. Researchers believe that this capability is common across all mammals, not just humans and rats.

This type of research is challenging due to the lack of verbal communication with the subjects. Technological advancements, however, enable us to examine animal brains. In the case of rats, VR technology was employed. The rats were subjected to a dark tunnel simulation and instructed to locate specific shapes. Success was rewarded with treats.

The experiment involved the recording of electrical signals from the rats' hippocampus, a part of the mammalian brain responsible for memory and information processing. The responses showed that rats applied imagination, which aided them significantly in their tasks.

"Rats can envisage actions similar to us, without physically doing them"

In a subsequent study, the rats were placed on a treadmill. As in the initial experiment, VR technology played a part. The rats quickly grasped that running alone did not aid them in accomplishing their task. They then began using their imaginations, resulting in alterations to the VR imagery and bringing them closer to identifying the shape.

Both studies corroborated that animals, much like humans, use their imaginations to deal with challenging situations. "The study shows that rats can envisage doing things very much like us, without actually doing them in reality," noted Frank Sengpiel from Cardiff University.

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