Hide and Seek with Rats: Neural Correlates of Playing and Observing

11. Juli 2019

Evolutionary, cognitive and neural underpinnings of mammalian play are not yet fully elucidated.
We played hide & seek – an elaborate role-play-game – with rats.
Animals did not receive food rewards, but we engaged in playful interactions with them after finding or being found.
All rats quickly acquired the game and during seek systematically searched a large 30m2-room.
Rats guided searches by visual cues and memories of past hiding locations.
Rats preferred non-transparent over transparent enclosures when hiding.
Animals were highly vocal at trial beginnings, when finding the experimenter, during playful interactions and when being returned for a new trial, but were silent when hiding.
Rats appeared to enjoy the game itself rather than merely the post-finding-play.
Rats played by the rules, i.e. their behavior was highly distinct between hide and seek trials.