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posted by martyb on Saturday October 18 2014, @05:29AM   Printer-friendly
from the fuzzy-thinking dept.

There has long been a clear hierarchy of intelligence in the psychology lab with monkeys are at the top, then rats, and finally mice at the bottom, "cute and fluffy but not all that bright." For at least a hundred years researchers have used rats in their psychology experiments, assuming that they were the smarter of the two lab rodents but now Rose Eveleth reports at The Atlantic that new research shows that that might not be true and that mice can perform decision-making tasks in the lab just as well as rats can. "Anything we could train a rat to do we could train a mouse to do as well," says Tony Zador. This finding is important because using mice in experiments instead of rats could open up all kinds of new research options. For one thing, scientists have been able to manipulate a mouse’s genome in really useful ways, silencing certain genes to figure out what role they play. There are mouse models for everything from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s. Being able to put those mice through the paces of a psychology experiment could help researchers connect diseases with the behaviors they impact.

So where did this idea that rats are smarter than mice come from, anyway? Zador says it’s a historical bias. “There was 100 years of practice in training rats. And basically when people tried to treat the mice in exactly the way they treated the rats, the rats seemed smarter," says Zador. In other words, "over the course of 100 years people had figured out how to train rats, and that mice aren’t rats.” You might think that mice and rats would be basically the same when it comes to these kinds of things, but Zador points out that mice and rats diverged somewhere between 12 and 24 million years ago. For comparison, humans and chimpanzees split somewhere between 5 and 7 million years ago. So it's no surprise that mice behave differently than rats, and that that difference impacts their training in the lab. "The mouse is uniquely placed at the interface between experimental access and behavioral complexity, making it an ideal model for the study of adaptive decision-making. Successful behavioral paradigms, however, rely on targeting designs to the idiosyncrasies of the mouse from the outset, rather than simply assuming that mice are little rats."

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 18 2014, @04:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 18 2014, @04:19PM (#107332)

    Get the right traps -- simpler is better. The black and yellow plastic ones I got from the world's largest retail store chain worked GREAT for me.

    Get traps in groups of four -- bait two of them (I used 100% natural peanut butter to stick a slice of banana on the trigger pad of the trap) and flank them with two empty traps. Line up all four traps up along a wall on the floor and wait. When the mice are caught, release them outside alive or 'finish the job' (if needed) in the manner of your own choosing and dispose of the dead mice (flushing them down the toilet is NOT recommended!). Search around for holes they may have used to get in and plug them up with wads of aluminum foil or steel wool. Allow the uneaten bait to remain in the trap to attract more mice who will smell it and other mice on it. The peanut butter and banana works well as bait that still works after it becomes dehydrated.

    Extra tip: If you use the black and yellow plastic traps and have baby mice problems, use a loop of duct tape to stick a quarter or other large coin that fits on the underside of the trigger pad. This makes the trap 'more sensitive' but will be harder to 'arm' it as the trap will spontaneously snap if the coin is too heavy for the trigger pad and any bait on it.