Researchers in Virginia trained rats to drive tiny cars and learned the activity provided stress relief for the rodents. The scientists at the University of Richmond’s Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory trained two groups of rats to operate the “rat-operated vehicle,” which works by having the rats push down on a copper bar that propels the tiny car. The rats were rewarded with Froot Loops when they drove to the end of the enclosure.

Lab manager Kelly Lambert, said the group of rats raised in an “enriched” environment with toys and ladders were better able to drive than non-driving rats. She said the rats with more activities had greater neuroplasticity — the ability of their brains to grow and change over time — due to having more stimulation. “It is likely that driving gives the rats a sense of control over their environment,” she said. “In humans, we would say that it enhances a sense of agency or self-efficacy.”

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