Scientists at Waseda University's Taknishi Lab in Japan created the Waseda Rat-3 robot as part of their research into depression. The robot was used to harass real lab rats to induce depression. (Source: Waseda University)
I tend to agree with you, Nancy, that this is quite unpleasant sounding and am not really in favor of treating animals this way, either. But as a journalist, I just tried to report what the researchers found! They seem to think it's working in their research. But perhaps this will change down the line and they will conclude that it's not worth putting the lab rats through the terror.
To my understanding, Chuck, it has a rat-like covering but does show some of its robotic mechanism as well. I think the real rats are still quite fooled by it. I guess they aren't as clever as humans who would, quite literally, smell a rat! ;)
I am struggling with how a continuous attack simulates the same response as what would cause depression in humans...the fact that it uses a robotic rat doesn't help either. Rats, as all animals, use their senses in order to identify friend or foe. I am not sure what the benefit of a robotic rat is, since I am willing to bet the rats know it is a wolf in sheep's clothing...if the assumption is that the robotic rat looks likes its prey so that the rats identify with it as one of their own...what does that have to do with being terrorized? If I am being chased by a man with a lethal weapon or a ferocious dog - I am not sure I would be able to distinguish my feelings between the two, nor would I care at the time - I would just want to get away. Sorry - while I am absolutely in favor of research that helps forward treatment for depression - I just don't see how this is helpful and it seems unnecessary to treat these creatures in that manner, especially with such a doubtful payoff.
Although that said, when I lived in NYC there were a few rats I encountered on the street and in the subway that I wouldn't have minded terrorizing with my own private robotic rat. ;) They were a bit bigger and nastier than your average lab rat, though.
It does make you feel sorry for the lab rats, doesn't it? I can't let personal ethics come into my play as a journalist but I wouldn't personally want to subject animals to such behavior. But I guess it is helping researchers learn more effective ways of treating humans, so there is a bright side. But yes, only the most devoted masochist would want to volunteer for such a thing!
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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