Thu, Feb 02, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Goodwill rats help pals escape: study

A rat is seen on Yangmingshan in Taipei on Oct. 15 last year.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Liberty Times

Lab rats have feelings, too.

Given a choice between munching on a tasty chocolate treat or helping a fellow rat escape from a restraint, test rodents often preferred to liberate a pal in need, indicating that their empathy for others was reward enough.

The observation by University of Chicago neuroscientists, published in the journal Science, suggests that even these primitive creatures are wired to show benevolence for their own kind.

Researchers started by housing 30 rats together in pairs, each duo sharing the same cage for two weeks. Then, they moved them to a new cage where one rat was held in a restraining device while the other could roam free.

The free rat could see and hear his (or her — six of the rats were female) trapped buddy, and appeared more agitated while the entrapment was going on.

The door to the trapping enclosure was not easy to open, but most rats figured it out within three to seven days. Once they knew how, they went straight to the door to open it every time they were put in the cage.

“There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats,” said first author Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal. “In the rat model world, seeing the same behavior repeated over and over basically means that this action is rewarding to the rat.”










1. given prep.

假如;考慮到 (jia3 ru2; kao3 lu4 dao4)

例: Given their inexperience, they have done a good job.


2. in need adv. phr.

困難地 (kun4 nan2 de5)

例: He is in dire need.


3. rewarding adj.

值得的;有益的 (zhi2 de2 de5; you3 yi4 de5)

例: Reading can be very rewarding for everyone.



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