Navigation Links
Rats Can Lend a Helping Paw to Others, Study Finds
Date:12/8/2011

THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Rats may have gotten a bum rap.

Far from being self-centered scroungers, a new study found that the rodents showed what looks like real empathy -- repeatedly freeing trapped companions, even when they're given the opportunity to eat chocolate instead.

This first evidence of empathy-motivated behavior in rodents suggests that this type of pro-social helping behavior developed earlier in animal evolution than was previously thought, the University of Chicago researchers added.

Anecdotal observations of empathetic behavior have been noted in non-human primates and some other wild animal species, but it had not been seen in laboratory rodents.

In the study, companion rats that normally shared a cage were put in a separate space where one was under restraint and the other wasn't. The restrained rat was kept in a tube with a door that could only be opened by a push from outside.

The researchers say the free-ranging rat appeared agitated when the other rat was kept in the tube, a state the scientists called "emotional contagion" -- feeling the distress of others.

A few days into the experiment, the free-roaming rat learned how to open the tube door, freeing the other rat. Once this was learned, the free-ranging rat made this his/her first action upon being placed in the new area.

"There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats," said the study's lead author, graduate student 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."

Even the lure of a tasty treat didn't seem to sway the rat from helping a trapped companion: When the researchers placed chocolate chips inside another tube, the free-ranging rat nearly always opened the tube containing the other rat first, before going for the chocolate.

"That was very compelling," said co-author Peggy Mason, a professor of neurobiology. "It said to us that essentially helping their cage mate is on a par with chocolate. He can hog the entire chocolate stash if he wanted to, and he does not. We were shocked."

"This is the first evidence of helping behavior triggered by empathy in rats," Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, added in a University of Chicago Medical Center news release. "There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear. We put together in one series of experiments evidence of helping behavior based on empathy in rodents, and that's really the first time it's been seen."

The study was published Dec. 8 in the journal Science.

More information

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has more about empathy.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Chicago Medical Center, news release, Dec. 8, 2011


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Brain tsunamis are clue to helping victims of major head injuries
2. Teachers Critical in Helping Abused Kids Succeed
3. Helping Others Helps Teens Beat Substance Abuse
4. Volunteering, helping others decreases substance use in rural teens, MU study finds
5. Helping others helps teens stay on the road to addiction recovery
6. Community leaders honored for helping Americans most in need
7. Study identifies an expanded role for PKM2 in helping cancer cells survive
8. Helping Teens Fend Off Attacks by Cyberbullies
9. Mine-hunting software helping doctors to identify rare cells in human cancer
10. Kellogg researcher helping eye care providers better assess driving in older adults
11. Fidos New Forte: Helping Kids Learn to Read
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Rats Can Lend a Helping Paw to Others, Study Finds
(Date:10/13/2017)... VA (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2017 , ... ... of DevOps and Agile Software Development, has been awarded a contract by the ... Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) aims to accelerate the enterprise use of Agile methodologies ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... CitiDent and San Francisco dentists, ... cutting-edge Oventus O2Vent technology. As many as 18 million Americans are estimated to ... breathing. Oral appliances can offer significant relief to about 75 percent of people ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... The American College of Medical ... Friedman, PhD, FACMI, during the Opening Session of AMIA’s Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C. ... honor of Morris F. Collen, a pioneer in the field of medical informatics, this ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... HMP , a leader ... a 2017 Folio Magazine Eddie Digital Award for ‘Best B-to-B Healthcare Website.’ Winners were ... 11, 2017. , The annual award competition recognizes editorial and design excellence across a ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... (HLA), the nation's first interactive health literacy software tool, and the Cancer Patient ... aspects of cancer patient education, today announce a new strategic alliance. , ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/12/2017)... , Sept. 12, 2017   EcoVadis , the leading platform for ... the first annual edition of its Global CSR Risk and Performance Index. ... by EcoVadis, based on Scorecard Ratings that analyzed nearly 800,000 data points ... ... ...
(Date:9/12/2017)... 12, 2017  ValGenesis Inc., the global leader ... pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. ... Board of Directors and Chairman of Advisory Board ... science companies to manage their entire validation lifecycle ... in this process. Furthermore, ValGenesis VLMS enables rigorous ...
(Date:9/9/2017)... , Sept. 8, 2017 Dealmed Medical ... independent supplier of medical equipment, supplies, drugs, vaccines, and ... has entered into an agreement to acquire Vantage Medical ... based in Holtsville, New York . ... in supplying new and emerging medical practices, will operate ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: