Researchers build robot rat to induce stress in lab animals (w/ Video)

Feb 13, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog
Researchers build robot rat to induce stress in lab animals (w/ Video)
Credit: Takanishi Lab/Waseda University

(—Researchers at Waseda University in Japan have built a robot rat they call WR-4, and whose purpose isto induce stress in lab rats. In studying the impact of stress inflicted on the lab rats, the researchers hope to learn more about how stress affects people.

Scientists have used rats in all manner of lab experiments over the years—sometimes to see how therats react physically to drugs, other times to see how they behave under certain specified conditions,and sometimes to create mental ailments that mimic those found in the . Thepurpose of such experiments is to learn how drugs or environmental conditions affect the rats, and then to apply those results to the better understanding of the similar human conditions.

The Japanese researchers had many goals in mind when building WR-4. They hoped to understand how react to living with a robot, and to theorize how humans might react under comparable circumstances. In addition, the researchers wanted to determine which types of aggressive actions by the robot would induce depression in the rats (as demonstrated by rats that become less active), with the purpose of developing therapies to address the depression.

The robot rat is approximately the same size as a regular white rat, and has front legs and feet for steering. In back, it has motorized to help it maneuver. In one series of experiments, the researchers programmed WR-4 to operate in three different modes: chasing, where it simply follows a rat; a continuous attack, where the robot attacks a rat in a non-violent, non-stop fashion for a period oftime; and an interactive attack, where it attacks in a non-violent way only when the target moves. In this study, the researchers found that the interactive attack most successfully instigated the rats' symptoms of .

In another series of experiments, researchers stressed rats by putting them in difficult situations, such as having to rely on the robot rat for their food, or having to manipulate the robot physically to get its food.In one test, the robot was programmed to whirl about in random fashion, causing at least one subject rat to attempt to hide.

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Such experiments offer insight into how rats react when confronted with a menacing rat in their midst—what is not yet clear, however, is how closely their reactions predict those of humans placed under similar conditions.

Explore further: A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

More information: via NewScientist

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User comments : 8

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1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
What would be great is a robot rat that gives of rat pheromones to attract other rats, after which it kills them with a high-voltage zap or a micro-injection of lethal chemical. Having these robots on patrol in rat-infested areas could do a lot to cut down rat populations.
5 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
I think these guys were just having fun screwing with rats
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
Thanks, I've almost died laughing. I get it guys, I get it. Publish, or perish. What a mind-fu*k for the rats. What a fun.
1 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2013
Thanks, I've almost died laughing.

Did you have to go to the hospital?

I get it guys, I get it. Publish, or perish. What a mind-fu*k for the rats. What a fun.

Publish or perish usually doesn't involve the expense and trouble of setting up a lab, building little rat robots, etc.

Sounds like a lot of interesting possibilities. What attributes of the robot are most stress inducing? Can populations be bred that are more or less stress prone? Or that deal with stress differently? Are there other environmental factors that have, maybe, synergistic effects?
1 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2013
Sounds like a lot of interesting possibilities.

I think it's more along a line of: what types of memory are built and when? What causes/alleviates depression.

This is based on another article I read about their robo rat: The used it to stress some younger rats and then observed what happened if the rats wer exposed to the (attacking) robo-rat at a later age.

It looks like rats that were exposed/attacked at a young age showed depression of a similar level with attacks that were much more infrequent compared to rats that were exposed to it the first time. So it seems that early 'trauma' is much more traumatic and longer lasting than when you get exposed to something traumatic in later life
(and hence early treatment is probably more effective)
1 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2013
This is ridiculous. It's time to leave the rats alone. How rats respond to a robot has no relevance for humanity. What does say a lot about humanity is the fact that there are groups of people willing to stress out rats for no good reason at all.
not rated yet Feb 16, 2013
Used to have one of these in the place I used to work. We called it a supervisor.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2013
This is sick "research".

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