Games are a great way to relieve the stress of real-life trials and annoyances. They provide a low-risk and often fun activity set in a safe environment with the potential for snacks. Having the ability to relax with a safe but somewhat mentally challenging task can do wonders for relaxation, even without the snacks, and rats happen to agree.
According to Ars Technica, scientists have been putting adorable mice in tiny, purpose-built cars and teaching them how to drive. And it looks like the mice are loving it, on a scientifically observable level.
At the University of Richmond, a team is studying the effects of a mouse’s environment on its general well-being and ability to learn new things. The tasks previously given to mice to study this were pretty straightforward, so the team decided to step things up by teaching the little worm to drive.
A bespoke vehicle was designed and built for the mice from a robotic car kit, plastic food container and three copper wires to control directions, rather than a complicated wheel. The wires work for the forward, left, and right controls, so essentially they taught mice to drive a car using the equivalent of the W, A, and D keys for a PC gamer.
Initially, the treats were placed around a small arena and the mice won by driving the vehicle towards them. The treats would always be placed in different areas, making the rats fully learn to control the vehicle to be rewarded. Eight weeks of three batches of five-minute sessions was all it took for the mice to get the hang of this process, which is a slap in the face to this unlicensed writer.
What’s especially cool about this test is that the mice continued to drive the vehicles even without reward. Reportedly, the sheer joy of driving was intrinsically rewarding enough for them to get back behind the wires and keep trying.
In addition, studies of hormones found in rat faeces have indicated an overall better quality of life for the furious little drivers. It seems that this rewarding challenge added to their lives has genuinely enriched them. However, it’s likely just because they don’t have to deal with car insurance companies and traffic spikes.