Navigation Links
Rats purposefully use their whiskers in different ways to help navigate in the dark
Date:7/7/2014

The way rats use their whiskers is more similar to how humans use their hands and fingers than previously thought, new research from the University of Sheffield has found.

Rats deliberately change how they sense their environment using their facial whiskers depending on whether the environment is novel, if there is a risk of collision and whether or not they can see where they are going.

Exploring rats move their long facial whiskers back and forth continuously while they are moving a behaviour called "whisking".

Scientists have known for a long time that movement of the whiskers provides these animals with a sense of touch that allows them to move around easily in the dark.

However, until now they did not know to what extent animals were able to deliberately control their whisker movement.

Academics from the Active Touch Laboratory in the University's Department of Psychology used high-speed videography to study animals that had been trained over several days to run circuits for food.

By putting them in different scenarios including putting unexpected obstacles in their way and removing visual cues the team discovered strong evidence the creatures moved their whiskers in a purposeful way to safely navigate the course.

The study found that as animals got used to their environment, they moved quicker and altered their facial whisker movements switching from broad exploratory whisker sweeps directed at nearby surfaces, such as the floor, to pushing their whisker forwards in order to detect obstacles and avoid collisions.

In environments where they were more likely to collide with objects, and without access to visual cues, animals moved more slowly but pushed their whiskers forward further. This suggests that they were aware on the increased risk of collisions and were acting more cautiously accordingly.

Professor Tony Prescott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, said: "A person moving around in the dark would likely use their hand and fingers to detect objects and obstacles in order to avoid banging into things. In a familiar environment, such as their own home, they might move faster pushing their hands out in front of them in case of unexpected collisions.

"This new research show that rats do much the same thing but using their facial whiskers. That is, they purposefully use their whisker to detect nearby objects and surfaces when moving slowly in unfamiliar environments, and push them out in front of themselves, to avoid collisions, when the environment is familiar and they want to move more quickly.

"All mammals except humans use facial whiskers as touch sensors. In humans we seem to have replaced this sense, in part, by being able to use our hand and fingers to feel our way.

"The rat puts its whiskers where it thinks it will get the most useful information, just as we do with our fingertips."


'/>"/>

Contact: Hannah Postles
h.postles@sheffield.ac.uk
44-114-222-1046
University of Sheffield
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Slaying bacteria with their own weapons
2. People with tinnitus process emotions differently from their peers, researchers report
3. Neurons get their neighbors to take out their trash
4. Birds evolve signature patterns to distinguish cuckoo eggs from their own
5. Male dwarf spiders make sure offspring is their own
6. Tree hugging helps koalas keep their cool
7. In the age of open science, repurposing and reproducing research pose their own challenges
8. Pesticides: Research provides new insights into their effects on shrimps and snails
9. Scientists link honeybees changing roles throughout their lives to brain chemistry
10. Groovy turtles genes to aid in their rescue
11. The real difference between how men and women choose their partners
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... March 30, 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, Sequencing.com ... Genome hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in ... will focus on developing health and wellness apps that ... Hack the Genome is the first hackathon for ... world,s largest companies in the genomics, tech and health ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... March 29, 2017  higi, the health IT company ... North America , today announced a Series ... acquisition of EveryMove. The new investment and acquisition accelerates ... tools to transform population health activities through the collection ... higi collects and secures data today on ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from Maldives ... Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the most ... Reading ... Maldives ... Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR award ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:8/21/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... August 21, 2017 , ... ... Healthcare Edition 2017. The awards recognize medical centers that have implemented innovative products, ... efficiency of patient care protocols, competitive advantages, financial impact/value, and market need. The ...
(Date:8/21/2017)... ... August 21, 2017 , ... Boston Strategic ... experience with Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) and ‘big data’ to provide ... US healthcare spending exceeded $3.0 trillion with nearly 1/3 spent on hospitalizations. BSP ...
(Date:8/21/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... August 21, 2017 , ... Today Aether ... a project, funded by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, to ... Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also known as the Gates Foundation, is said to ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... Jose, CA (PRWEB) , ... August 18, 2017 ... ... advanced precision Lithography Equipment for the Semiconductor, MEMS, and Microfluidics Industries, announces the ... features and specifications found more often in automated production mask aligners. OAI has ...
Breaking Biology Technology: