Rats may experience regret, a new research study finds

By Elizabeth Learned,

Do rats have regrets like the rest of us humans do? According to a new study, yes they do.

TIME reports that a research study conducted at the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center used different rooms that rats could choose from in order to see how long the rats would wait or if they would choose to go to a different room.

The rats in the study preferred certain foods. The researchers looked at how the rats responded if they skipped a room that had a meal they liked only to discover a meal they didn’t like in the next room.

There was a wait time for the different rooms and the rats would skip a room if the wait time was thought to be long, but then they found out the next door had a longer wait time. The researchers noticed the rats would take a look back at the other door when they made a bad choice.

National Geographic reported that the researchers also examined the brain patterns of the rats. When humans experience regret, two areas of the brain are involved in how we make decisions and what we feel about the outcomes of said decisions. These include the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum.

The researchers wanted to track the brain activity in rats to see if they experienced regret and implanted electrodes in the four rats used in the study.

The rats’ food preference was recorded via nerve patterns and when the rat had to wait too long for food, they would look back. Then, its brain activity would spike, signaling they were thinking of their first choice.

While it is unknown if rats share the same thinking about their choices the way humans might, it does exhibit the idea that seeing how animals model behavior could help us to better understand behavior in humans.



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