Rodents Exhibit Cognitive Abilities Akin Humans, Study Shows

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Researchers have made a fascinating revelation about rats exhibiting cognitive abilities akin to those of humans. Through their experiments, they found that rats were capable of employing their cognitive faculties to execute tasks within a virtual reality setting.

Rats have cognitive abilities as humans

A research group in Virginia has created a pioneering system that merges virtual reality with a brain-machine interface (BMI) enabling them to investigate the cognitive capabilities of laboratory rodents. The results of their study demonstrate that, similar to humans, rats have the capacity to contemplate locations and objects that are not currently within their vicinity. In essence, they possess the ability to employ their imaginations to visualize desired scenarios.

According to research findings rats could employ their cognitive abilities to manipulate items in the virtual reality environment, resembling the remarkable skills exhibited by Jedis in the “Star Wars” universe. This investigation presents compelling proof that not only rats, but conceivably other members of the animal kingdom, may possess imaginative capabilities akin to those found in humans.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus researchers discovered that rodents exhibit brain activity similar to humans when encountering new places and events. This neural activity primarily occurs in the hippocampus, a brain region associated with spatial memory.

Rats can remember distant locations and recall the past

The study suggests that rats can generate hippocampal activity to remember distant locations, essential for recalling the past and imagining the future. The research, initiated by Dr. Albert Lee and Dr. Chongxi Lai almost a decade ago, implies that animals have imaginative abilities.

Researchers collaborated to create a “thought detector” using a brain-machine interface to link neural activity in a rat’s hippocampus to its position in a 360-degree virtual reality arena. This system interprets animal thoughts by measuring brain activity, particularly in the hippocampus, which is associated with mental maps, memory recall, and future scenario planning.

BMI investigated if rats could voluntarily activate hippocampal activity, allowing them to think about specific locations in a VR arena. They created a “thought dictionary” to decode the rat’s brain signals and correlated them with experiences in the VR arena.

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