This article is from the WSSF 2014 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota in
Minneapolis found when rats were given the option of
visiting different parts of a test track
restaurant row that
contained different foods and wait times, if they skipped a
good deal for a worse one, they glanced back at the one
they skipped, rushed through eating the snack they
chose, and were off to the next one. With good choices the
rats would groom themselves after eating the treat.
The track consisted of a circle with 4 spokes radiating out from its circumference. At the end of 3 spokes was flavored food and the 4th had unflavored food. When the rat arrived at a spoke, a tone would sound indicating how long the wait would be to get the food. The rat then had to make a choice to wait or continue on. Each rat had a preferred food and amount of patience. When the rat passed up food at one spoke and moved on to the next to find a longer wait time, it would look back at the missed one. The rats were more likely to take a bad deal and wait longer after a regretful decision.
The rats’ brain activity represented the missed opportunity suggesting regret—not the reward they missed but the action they didn’t take. This shows a high level of cognitive ability in rats.
Article was published in Nature Neuroscience www.nature. com/neuro/journal/v17/n7/full/nn.3740.html.