Rats avoid danger by sensing fear in other animals
RATS can sense fear in each other, just like humans, allowing them to avoid danger, according to new research.
Scientists have found that rats can tell when other rodents are in danger, even if they have never met before. The discovery could help develop treatments for “empathy disorders” like psychopathy and dementia, which affect over 500,000 people in the UK.
Lead author Prof Christian Keysers, of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, said: “Rats can use other rats as danger antennas, by being exquisitely sensitive to the emotions of the rats around them.”
The team put two rats face to face and used a “brief” electric shock to startle one of them.
Researcher Rune Bruls said: “Upon witnessing its neighbour jump, the rat suddenly looks scared as well. The rat catches the fear of the other animal.”
The study found the fear factor goes both ways, contrary to common belief that empathy is a oneway street, with just one person feeling for the other.