Pictured here with a common or garden rat, is the WR-3, a robot rat specifically created to make live rats depressed. ‘BUT WHY and WTF?’ I hear you all yell, well apparently the reason that these scientists want to make rats depressed is so they can test anti-depressants on them.
Previous methods of making rats depressed included making them swim for long periods or subjecting them to electric shocks. But these causes aren’t usually the causes for depression amongst humans, so in order to make their tests more accurate scientists tried to find a different way of making their test subject rats depressed.
So researchers at the Waseda University of Tokyo created WR-3, which is pretty much an attack robot that has 3 different modes that it uses to make the rats miserable. These modes, which are called “behavior generation algorithms”, include chasing, continuous attacking and interactive attacking. As their names suggest, the chasing mode sees WR-3 relentlessly pursue the rat in its sights, whilst continuous attacking has WR-3 beating down hard on the live rat, repeatedly using aggressive body motions and physical contact against the creature. In the third mode, interactive attacking, the robot will only attack the rat when it moves at a set distance.
Numerous experiments carried out on rats of various different ages found that the most effectual method of making a rat depressed (measured by overall listlessness) was to constantly harass young rats and harass them intermittently as they got older. Those poor little mites!
I’m not really sure which is a crueler way of making the rats depressed, setting a bully robot against the creatures or subjected them to repeated electric shocks! I know animal testing is necessary for medical advancement, but it really doesn’t help these icky feelings.
I can’t help thinking about my favorite characters in the novel “Mrs. Frisby & The Rats Of Nimh” by Robert C. O’Brien and hoping that at least a couple of those rats fought back against WR-3 and gave it a taste of its own medicine.
A paper about WR-3 entitled “A Novel Method to Develop an Animal Model of Depression Using a Small Mobile Robot” was published this week online on Advanced Robotics.