Scientists teach mice to play hide-and-seek, but they hide and rats seek

 Sometimes we want to be small again, so that when we run away, there will be mice to find.

What do you do when you know there is a mouse in your house? Surely you will want to find it, chase it out the door to protect your food as well as your belongings. But the rats are very good at hiding. They can burrow into tight nooks and crannies that you can't reach.

Now, a group of scientists want to do the opposite. They taught the rats to play hide and seek and this time, they were the ones to hide and the rats to find. Surprisingly, the rats liked the paradoxical game. When they found the scientist hiding behind the cardboard, they even jumped for joy.

Researchers are trying to explain this behavior in mice. They call it a pure joy to play with. Perhaps the rats were too tired of having to hide all day, so when they became hunters, they enjoyed it.

Sometimes we want to be small again, so that when we run away, there will be mice to look for

The study was carried out by German scientists at the Humboldt University of Berlin. In it, they spent weeks teaching 6 rats to familiarize themselves with the rules of the human game of hide and seek.

They redesigned a 27-square-foot room, placing barricades or cardboard barriers that would allow an adult to hide behind them.

To teach the rats to find people to hide, a scientist would initially place the rat inside a sealed box to "blind" them. She then goes to hide in another part of the room and then the box is opened for the rat to find.

In the beginning, the scientist will intentionally hide in easy places and expose their body. Every time the rat comes near, she will reward them with tickles (Mouse loves to be tickled). This reward means more than food in a fun game like this.

Gradually, the rats learned the rule that every time the cage door opened, they needed to find the hiding scientist. Later, she hid more carefully and did not reveal herself.

Video footage of the game shows that the rats had to run from one area to another to find the scientist. At first, they searched the old locations where she used to hide. If not, they will find a new location.

Interestingly, when the scientist was found, the rats even jumped for joy – a behavior known as "freudensprung" or "jumping joy". They sometimes even tease the scientist by repeatedly approaching them and then running away so that the scientist misses them.

They call this a pure joy. Because even when the fun is over. The scientists gave the mice a large meal, but they didn't mind and continued to return to the "blind" cage. It is clear that they want to keep playing and enjoy playing more than eating.

Research on mouse behavior and pleasure

For scientists, studying play behavior in mice is an important goal, because this is an evolutionary trait present in all mammals. For mice, hide and seek seems to be in their genes. Rats in the wild have to dig, hiding from their natural enemies like snakes and eagles.

When living in the house, rats also have to hide from humans. Think about it, what would you do if you knew there were mice in your house? In the west, people would immediately call a pest control center and some of their staff would come, carrying a bunch of weapons ranging from mechanical to chemical to find the pest.

But scientists say that declaring war on mice inadvertently makes us miss the opportunity to play and explore their behavior.

"Although pet rat owners aren't surprised by this. But [many others won't know] juvenile rats are one of the most playful mammals known," says Lynda Sharpe, Ph. zoology at the Australian National University's Department of Ecology and Evolution explains.

Juan Ignacio Sanguinetti-Scheck, study co-author at Humboldt University Berlin agrees. "I've never seen a rat run so much in a lab," he said.

In addition, according to Dr Sharpe, the German study "is valuable because it demonstrates the cognitive complexity of rats in participating in a human game".

Indeed, hide-and-seek can help you discover the true abilities of rats. For example, in switching roles of being a seeker instead of a fugitive, they demonstrated an action that researchers call "the theory of mind".

The team at the Humboldt University of Berlin measured the electrical signals in the brains of the mice when they started searching. Once the blindfold box was opened, several neurons in their prefrontal cortex (mPFC) were activated.

This is the area of ​​the brain involved in decision making, social interaction, and action processing that is theoretically in the mind – at least in humans. "The rat has self-determination throughout the game," says Sanguinetti-Scheck. "And neurons in their mPFC area respond to specific events."

It's not clear what that means or whether the medial prefrontal cortex in particular is helping the mice to be smarter. But studies like this could be the key to helping answer the question.

"The rats are doing a lot of amazing behaviors that neuroscientists would bother with, such as decision-making. How does the animal decide where it wants to look, or where to look? it wants to hide?

Or what happens when it's surprised? When he thought he knew where the scientist was hiding, but turned out she wasn't there? What happens in the brain of the rat then? There are so many things that we can now use hide-and-seek to learn about," Sanguinetti-Scheck said.

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