Rats avoid dan­ger by sens­ing fear in other an­i­mals

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

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.

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