Science-- there's something for everyone

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rats have a sense of direction soon after birth

Scientists from University College London have determined that a rat’s sense of direction is innate, and develops before the animal begins to explore its environment.

Thus far, three types of spatial neurons have been found in rat brains, all in the hippocampus. In humans, this part of the brain is critical for long-term memory storage as well as spatial orientation. Although the neurons continue to develop after the baby rats move out of their nests, they initially fire well before such exploration begins. This indicates that the ability to orient must be innate.

Personally, I take exception to this conclusion. But then again, results from model organisms don't always translate to humans.

One week old rat pictured with quarter by Mark Blumberg, April 19, 2005.