In Science magazine, published on Thursday, November 2, researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, United States, revealed that mice have amazing cognitive abilities. They will be able to imagine places and things.
In the same way that humans plan the menu for the upcoming Christmas meal and the best arrangement for guests around the table, rats are also able to imagine a situation that is not happening at the moment. in Science Magazine Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, United States, revealed on Thursday, November 2, that mice can navigate a space they have previously explored with the power of their single thoughts.
Zhongxi Lai, one of the study’s authors from the American Institute for Medical Research, revealed that this thesis was the first of its kind to prove that rodents can imagine places far from where they are. “It is an essential element of a certain type of imagination, which allows us to project ourselves into the past or into the future, within the framework of a certain scenario,” the researcher explained.
There is an area in the human brain, called the hippocampus, that contains a kind of mental model, or map, that describes environments that have already been explored. As a result, when an individual moves to specific places that he or she already knows, certain neurons in the brain become active.
If humans can imagine themselves walking, running, or dancing in a place they have visited before, such as the kitchen of their apartment, how does this manifest in the brain of mice?
Fruitful experiments for the benefit of science
To learn about the mechanism of the rodent brain, the researchers used an interface through which electrodes were surgically implanted in the brains of mice. The animals were then placed on a treadmill, inside an immersive virtual reality arena.
During the first experiment, the mice moved and the treadmill rotated. Their location within the virtual environment was updated on the screen, as if the rodent were actually moving. Once they achieved their goal, they received a treat. The process was repeated several times, while the researchers were careful to record the animals’ hippocampal activity.
The second step was to remove the treadmill from the VR system. The mice had to remain still and use their brain activity to navigate the virtual environment. In parallel with this new test, the researchers continued to record brain activity in rodents.
Mice are closer to humans than we think
Each experiment was successful on rodents. The results of various brain analyzes during the missions showed that mice can move toward a goal using only their brains.
Professor Tim Harris, co-author of the work published in the journal Science, said imagination and memory are likely to be linked to activity in the hippocampus in humans. Therefore, it is possible to imagine what happens in real life. In the same way, “it is fair to say that mice imagine,” the researcher soberly concluded.
“Hardcore beer fanatic. Falls down a lot. Professional coffee fan. Music ninja.”