In the last issue of the AWI Quarterly, we reported on a study recently published in the journal Science (Reinhold et al., 2019). In that study, researchers who were examining the neural underpinnings of decision-making and motivation taught rats to play hide-and-seek, a game they indicated was enjoyed by the rats. Our intent was to describe this novel approach (playing a game with free-ranging rats) as a refinement to the traditional method of studying neurobiology by confining rats to a small chamber in which they have to perform a mundane task, like lever pressing. We also aimed to highlight how rats are intelligent animals with whom we can form a relationship.
However, we should have been more explicit about the implications of this study: Because the goal was to understand rat neurobiology, five of the six rats used in the study were implanted with brain electrodes. Researchers recorded the animals’ brain activity while the rats played hide-and-seek. At the end of the study, the rats were killed and their brains were analyzed. It is never our intent to gloss over animal suffering and loss of life in research, and we should have included this additional information in our original piece.