In these modern times, where work is constant and stress unending, it can be hard to find genuine tranquility. But now, thanks to tiny rat cars that “relax” their rodent drivers, it’s beginning to dawn upon my tiny rat brain that anything can be soothing, and that self-care is really about doing what you like most and allowing yourself to take pleasure in that. If that means slamming your foot down on the gas peddle and squeaking “GET OUTTA MY WAY” for hours as you drive around in circles, then so be it.
The research on driving rats comes out of the Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Richmond, ABC 7 reports. It is there that Dr. Kelly Lambert and her crack team of comically small car experts designed a vehicle that only a rat could drive, rigged with clear plastic food containers (to hold the rat’s limited attention span) and three copper bars that allow the driver to steer. The subjects were given Froot Loop cereal pieces as their reward.
By analyzing the rats’ poop later, Lambert’s team found that the ones which learned to drive developed higher levels of the hormones corticosterone and DHEA, which regulate responses to stress. Lambert concluded that the rats were, therefore, less stressed out. “It is likely that driving gives the rats a sense of control over their environment,” she told CNN on Wednesday. “In humans, we would say that it enhances a sense of agency or self-efficacy.”
The study also found that rats who had previously developed their neuroplastic capacities through other stimulating exercises like playing with balls and ladders were better at driving, whereas those who hadn’t “failed their driving test,” in Lambert’s words.
The lesson I’ve gleaned from this research is that I’d be a more well-adjusted person if I allowed myself the simple joy of completing a task well, such as driving a car, which I do not know how to do. Once again, I have been bested by a rat.