Rats have learned to navigate by observing their congeners

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Rats have learned to navigate by observing their congeners

Of the norwegian researchers have recently conducted studies to understand the Internal GPS living beings. In particular, they analyzed the adaptability of rats to their environment. This study revealed that they do not necessarily need to physically explore a place to understand it. It was enough for them observe the behavior of other rats to soak up the place. Posted in Frontiers in Behavioral Neurosciencethe results of this study mark a further step towards the understanding of observational learning.

Curious white rat observing its surroundings from its cage.

Detected in invertebrates, birds, fish and mammals, this learning mode is essential for the species survival. Indeed, a new individual must be able to learn from new tasks and of adapt to their new environment. This ability to adapt also contributes to its welfare.

This is why the author of this study, the Dr. Thomas Doublet from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that observational learning represents the school of everyday life.

Mental maps to situate oneself in space

Researchers have already shown that animals and humans evolve in space thanks to a kind of cognitive map. Scientists have suggested that specific functional cells actively participate in the process of creating this cognitive map and control its functioning.

There would then exist cells which delimit the borderscells that determine the head direction and cells for characterization of the place. For example, the hippocampal neurons activate when an animal enters a new space in order to provide it with the location field.

Rats learn by watching their friends

Rats are known to have stable brain maps which give them a browsing ability exceptional. The researchers then designed a two-part cage where an observing rat had to investigate the location of a food reward by observing a demonstrator rat who has already undergone training.

Once observational learning was complete, the observing rat could then explore the other cage to seek the reward as well. As a result of this experiment, scientists found that the observing rats found the reward much faster than the others. This means that rats can get to know without prior physical exploration.


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