Scientists trained rats to play ‘hide and seek’ with humans

Scientists have trained rodents to play hide and seek with humans, this bizarre advance would pave way for studying the neurobiology of playful behaviour in animals.

The study published noted that very little is known about the neurological basis of playful behaviours in animals since such activities are free, and provides no benefits to the organism beyond the game.

Researchers concluded that traditional methods of neuroscience aren’t useful to study the playful behaviour of rats.

Annika Reinhold of Humboldt University of Berlin in Germany, and her team taught rats to play a rat-versus-human version of “Hide and Seek.”

Within few weeks of training the rats picked up the game. Rats not only played the game but also they learned to alternate between hiding and seeking roles.

Reinhold said that, the rats, while seeking, learned to look for a hidden human, and to keep looking for them until they were found. The rats also remained in hiding until they were found by humans.

The researchers rewarded the rats with playful social interactions, such as tickling, petting, or rough-and-tumble-like play when the animals were successful at hiding and seeking behaviours.

The results of the study show that the animals gradually learned to be strategic over time. The study noted, that the rats started searching systematically, using visual cues in the surroundings, and investigating the places where their human counterparts hid in the previous turns.

The rats remained silent when hiding, changed locations between turns, and preferred to be concealed in opaque cardboard boxes, instead of transparent ones.

Their neuronal recordings revealed intense activity in the prefrontal-cortex that varied with game events.

The The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the part of the brain that works on planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour.