In a lab in Tokyo, a robot rat is making real rats cry.
Sometimes the bionic bully just follows rats around like a pesky little brother. For hours.
Sometimes it follows them around and keeps bumping into them when the teacher’s not looking or when they’re trying to do up their shoelaces.
And sometimes it just attacks them every time they move.
Poor rats. It’s not surprising they’re depressed.
And that’s exactly the outcome researchers at Waseda University are hoping for.
By watching how “external stimulus induces stress in individuals”, they hope to open up new frontiers in psychic medicine.
RoboRat is a complete arse – they certainly got that bit right. He mimics a real bully rat, grooming, rearing up and shoulder-charging.
He bullied the real rats both when they were in kindy and later at high school. The kindy rats copped it every day, 10 minutes at a time, for five days (continual attack). The older rats got it sporadically (interactive attack).
Result? The kindy rats suffered most.
“A depression model animal can be developed by exposing continuous attack by the robot,” the researchers found.
The interactive attack was more effective on the older rats.
It might seem a bit cruel, but hanging out with a mechanical mouse probably makes for a better day than previous studies into this sort of thing.
Wired claims depression has been forced on rats in the past through the delivery of continued electric shocks and non-stop swimming.
Once the rats are diagnosed as clinically depressed, they can then be given anti-depressants.
And once they’re compos mentis again, no doubt they’re released into a neverending maze full of fine cheese and willing lady rats.
Right? Course they are.