Robotic Rat Torments And Depresses Real Rats


Animal testing has always been a subject of much debate. On one hand, it allows us to determine if something is probably safe for humans. On the other hand, it’s injuring and killing the very animals that help us escape that same fate. Any way you look at it, be thankful you’re not a lab rat. Being a mammal, they share a similar physiology with us. They are also easy to breed and easy to dispose of. These characteristics make them the prime subject for testing the safety of drugs and treatments that might one day be used on humans. Scientists at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, have created a new rat nemesis – the WR-3, a robot designed specifically to stress and depress lab animals in the name of science.

Depression isn’t normally something rats have to worry about in the wild. So, the WR-3 tries to instill it upon them. The robot has three functions: attacking continuously (relentlessly rams the victim), attacking interactively (attacks for 5 seconds whenever the victim moves, then stops), and chasing (stays right next to the victim but never attacks). The scientists found that the best way to make the rats depressed was to attack them continuously in their youth, then attack interactively as they get older.

With the data the scientists gain from these new experiments, they hope to learn more about human depression and hopefully come up with more successful treatments. There isn’t a lot of specific information we could find about the WR-3, but we’ll keep you posted.

[via Gizmodo]

92 thoughts on “Robotic Rat Torments And Depresses Real Rats

  1. I understand the science behind this and the possible benefits. But this is literally being cruel for the sake of cruelty and it’s repercussions on psyche. That said, the build looks very nice, rather anamatronic-like.

      1. Nonsense, this is just cruelty. I can tell you with no need for experiments that if you continuously attack anything during its youth and then keep prodding it whenever it moves, it’s going to get upset. If anything “depression” is putting it mildly. I’m surprised the rat didn’t get incredibly aggresive. I only hope the researchers got some bitten fingers in the process.

        1. You’re missing the point. The experiment is NOT how to make an animal depressed, as you seem to think, but rather to develop a way to create an animal MODEL of a depressed person. Then use that model for testing. Kind of like, if you make a computer simulation of a set of neurons that model schizophrenia so you can then ‘treat’ the computer. You’re not trying to make a schizophrenic computer or to find a cure for schizophrenic computers. Youare trying to find a way to cure schizophrenia in people, using computers to model it. (Although if you could cure schizophrenia in a computer, it might come in handy for treating SkyNet, that seems a little paranoid to me.

        2. @Ralf, you said “I can tell you with no need for experiments that if you continuously attack anything during its youth and then keep prodding it whenever it moves, it’s going to get upset.”

          but then you said: “I’m surprised the rat didn’t get incredibly aggresive.”

          So you contradicted yourself. In fact you DO need an experiment to test a hypothesis. Whoa, that’s like…the *definition* of science!

      1. Okay Dr.Phil: Do the ends justify the means? something can be beneficial for us and cruel towards the other test subjects. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

        That said I’m not taking a PETA stance or anything, if this helps us make better medicine, then go for it, The prior statement was also a light-hearted jab with a hint of truth.

        1. Which is worse: causing suffering on a small scale to cure it on a large one, or doing nothing and allowing it to continue on a large scale? Inaction is a course of action. Doing nothing will not leave you blameless.

          1. Oh knock it off with that ‘Doing nothing will not leave you blameless.’ crap. I see that you are doing nothing to stop the wars and famine and crime and rape that happens every day. Hell, I’m hungry and you sat idly by while my breakfast time past.

            It must be ALL YOUR FAULT.


          2. Hmm, well if scale is what’s important then whales should breed large numbers of albino humans and torture them to find effective ways of treating depression in whales! “Ah, but whales don’t have opposable thumbs anymore” comes the reply, “…so conducting studies like that would be difficult for them!” Indeed, so then I guess it’s really because we can, and they can’t. Thank God we kept our opposable thumbs, I guess…

        2. No Nova, the ends do not justify the means….. i say find people already depressed and pay them a shitload to test on them ( although i read that 1 glass of champaign on a daily basis works a lot better than all the prozac-crap in the world…. ), on the other hand, don’t pay them much, or else they won’t be so depressed… and finally, lets all make humanoid robots that attack these “scientists” all the time, and when they’re older only interactively… bastards

        3. (the Phil who posted March 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm)
          [Nova] I wasn’t making any ethical or moral point at all, merely pointing out that you straddled the fence by first claiming that the science is valid then stating that the project is pure cruelty without redemption.

    1. I kinda agree on that and I don’t give a fuck with what happens to other animals, but there is just something else about going up to an animal and start abusing it to see what will happen.

    2. The interesting thing is that the results kinda apply to humans, too. Constant physical attacks on a human while it’s young, then intermittently reinforcing the attacks as they age… sounds like a pretty good recipe for depression.

  2. That has got to be one of the more bizarre-ass things I’ve ever heard. Harassing the hell out of a lab rat with a mechanized doppelganger in the hopes of making the rat depressed?! What? I don’t even… WHAT? I’m an evil genius and that’s kinda deranged even by my standards!

    Well, whatever. If it accomplishes what they’ve set out to accomplish, then so be it. Depression sucks, and the more we can do to help people who’re suffering from it, the better.

    1. They could just go straight to human studies by telling animal rights activists about this experiment and then observe and study the activists when the news of it makes them depressed. There’d be no need to actually depress any rats at all. Then, at the end of the study that fact can be revealed to the activists so they don’t have to be depressed anymore. A win-win-win!

  3. There are two possible goals of this research. One is to induce depression in rats and then learn from it, the nature of depression, how to best treat it, etc. The standard benevolent research stuff.

    Or, I think the true aim of the research is to learn how to best induce depression in mammals and thus pacify them. It looks like they’ve succeeded with small mammals and is now probably working on a human-sized tormentor. Think of it like a somewhat less lethal but no less effective terminator. IOW, why bother with sophisticated killer robots that can be reprogrammed and turned when you can pacify future resistance fighters by simply poking them repeatedly. John Connor wouldn’t stand a chance.


  4. Okay, so they have figured out how to make a rat depressed by systematically driving into it with a robot, wonderful…

    Does the rat have any issues interacting with other rats, once the robot is removed? and does the stress go?

    Otherwise you could just have had anything hit the rat or inflict pain for the duration, why use the robot?

    1. Offhand, I’d assume the robot exists because the psychology of random pain is different than the psychology of a “fellow rat” waltzing up and deciding it’s his job to make your life miserable.

      But still… what comes next after robot fifth-graders?

        1. The lab-rat in the picture has red eyes, this makes it an albino. I’ve learned that albino can not see as much as a normal rat would. (Wish isn’t much anyway) I think rats are clever enough to spot an imposter, but getting hit by an imposter will still make you depressed…

  5. It is amassing how hipper critical we are.we say your methods are cruel stop that then benefit from the discoveries latter. It is like with stem cells all the you are killing life crap. but that research lead to people walking again after spinal trauma with steam cells repairing the nerve tissue of the spine.

    The researchers have obviously decided the benefit to humanity out way the down side.

    Stop putting your head in the sand and ignoring that this happens in some way or other we as a society and as individuals will benefit from this. If you morally object to this then offer your self as a test subject.

    1. Embryonic Stem Cells cured nothing, and at a great cost of infant life.

      The term ‘stem cells’ now refers to virally reset neutral cells
      [Read the patents]:
      Adult cells reset by a virus to a neutral state.
      From this neutral state the adult cells can be programmed to replicate other cells.

      Not ‘amassing’, Amazing.
      Not ‘hipper critical’, Hypocritical.
      Not ‘steam’, stem.

      Windows does come with a spell-checker.
      There is nothing You have to say that is so dire that a couple seconds looking over Your message before You post will effect Your meaning.

      1. A splat of cells != an infant. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are not a drop-in replacement for embryonic stem cells (ESC), as the means to forcing somatic cells to become iPSCs is primarily via lentivirus or retrovirus. This adds the virus’s “code” to the genome of the cells being reprogrammed, increasing the risk of tumor formation. ESC, iPSC, and adult stem cell research all provide valuable scientific insight that will aid in treatment of disease. Believing that there is magic in a splat of cells leaves us in the dark ages.

        Eye hope my spill chucker is working!

        1. All that splat of cells needs to become an infant is food and protection. If you deny those after it is born it is abuse (or murder), but if you do it before it is research. That does not seem like a logical position to me. Being born must confer some magic that changes your status from tissue sample to human.

          1. Yes, that magic is called a conscience and cognitive functions. What you’re saying is not only ridiculous it’s also a bit fat fallacy. All the millions of sperms in your sack needs is an egg. Who are you to deny the millions of unborn babies their life! You are a VERY BAD person. We can continue this with neutering of animals, squashing of bugs and breathing living organisms, but how about we don’t? (rethorical).

          2. Eirinn I think we’ll have to disagree many people walking around have little or no conscience, and others are idiots that does not qualify them for research.
            My opinion is that syngamy is the best place to draw the line between human and non human.
            You are free to disagree with me but it does not make me a bad person.

          3. The magic of being born is that the cellsplat is now outside of the body of the woman who was carrying it and has begun an independent existence.

            And even after that point, the development of the other various characteristically-human traits that make us decide not to kill that variety of expelled cellsplat unfolds over many more years, so the line between “human” and “potential human” is fuzzy (sometimes even as late as age 21, lol) but the underlying issue is really about what a woman can do with her own body and so long as some type of growth exists inside her body (whatever the form) it’s ultimately her choice about what she does with it, at least in a practical if not always legal sense depending on the locality. And if there’s a religious/faith component involved then like any such matter it should be between the individual and their God (as for the aborted cellsplats, well God’s omnipotent and works in mysterious ways and all that, so we’ll have to assume He knows what He’s doing and it was all part of The Plan).

  6. Seems like some of you are assuming that “let’s see if we can make a rat depressed,” is the basis for this project. I would assume the basis is “let’s see if this anti-depression drug works; we need a depressed rat.”

    1. Or, another way to see it,
      Perhaps the constant bullying I received as a child is directly response for the depression I have as an adult. They found the most effective way to get a rat depressed (maybe for treatment, maybe to see which and how much stimuli results in adult depression, again for treatment, or an ounce of prevention)

  7. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of humans who would not be alive today if animal testing were not done, but I really feel there is a difference between animal testing to develop life-saving treatments, and animal testing for non-life-threatening issues, like cosmetics, etc… I suppose you could argue that depression is life-threatening, but torturing an animal to induce depression and stress so that you can see if your drugs alleviate those symptoms is pretty horrible :(

    1. And what of those people whose depression is so severe that they kill themselves? Or animal studies that may lead the the ability to regrow lost limbs? Grossly improving a lot of people’s quality of life is a ethically “worth” causing a few rat’s some discomfort.

    2. Claiming depression can’t be life threatening shows you haven’t experienced it yourself, nor anybody in your close proximity. From personal experience the slope from “I can’t be bother today” to “What’s the point” to “why do I bother being alive at all” is a steep and slippery one, and it’s all too easy to trip and start sliding down a deep and dark hole. More information on how to treat this is much needed as it’s a barely understood issue. Right now the best treatments available are either pills messing with the hormone levels in the brain in various ways or behavioural therapies teaching coping mechanisms and trying to deal with underlying experiences at the base of the problem. None of which are really 100% effective.

    1. Yup. I’d rather have the unknown side effects of a new drug kill a rat than a human.

      I suppose I wouldn’t object to the animal rights nuts volunteering to test new drugs on themselves to save rats. Two birds, one stone. :-D

  8. Will humans realise that they are but one part of a system which includes all life on this beautiful planet?

    Will humans learn not to consider themselves more important than every other component of the system?

    Will humans know harmony?

    I hope they will.

  9. One has to make the inevitable remark that the Nazis performed horrible experiments on humans but it was justifiable in their minds because they were Jews. A rather extreme comparison I understand but shifting attitudes and deeper understanding will see less and less of this sort of thing tolerated.

    1. Except that Jews are human beings, a rat is not. There’s a range of awareness between a human and a plant, and science generally accepts that rats are far enough down that continuum that it’s ethical to perform tests on them.

  10. Rats are a good learning tool for humans. We have much in common with them. At the end of the day – they have no rights and deserve no dignity. They are a lesser species that has very nearly contributed to the extinction of our species. Kill on sight using any means available.

  11. We need to see the names of those scientists published so their neighbors are in the know and can decide to move, especially if they have kids or pets.

    Oh and make sure the CIA doesn’t hire them at any point, use drastic measures to prevent it.

  12. Get real. This is not any different from injecting poor rats with cancer cells and then trying to cure them.

    When you find these test not acceptable then you should not enjoy most of the products of today medicine because you are then supporting (financing) the same methods.

    Hard choices, I know.

  13. Their “research” will conclude that constant abuse can cause a type of depression, and that reducing abuse can improve the type of depression that has its roots in ongoing torment and abuse. There’s no need to cause it to figure that out.

    This kind of “science” comes from the same kind of people who get off on raising chimpanzees in complete isolation with chickenwire mothers.

    1. You didn’t actually read the article, did you? They’re trying to *cure depression*, and need to create depressed rats to that end. If they had access to a naturally depressed strain of rats, they’d use those.

  14. One more thing that many overlook.

    This is not science about depressing rat. As many state, it is obvious that when you attack somebody non stop and they can not do nothing against it, they likely will get depressed. No big surprise here and this is not for what this small rat robot is created.

    This robot is mere automation of depression creation. Now when you have those depressed rats (and many of them because it is now automated), you can test antidepressants on them more efficiently (because you have more depressed rats).

    This is why this robot is created.

    I do understand the feelings of many commenters here and I too pity these rats but it is hard to argue against exploitation of other species till we continue to eat them.

    1. But thanks to the physical and psychological torture we get to look forward to a new drug that’ll help us not get bummed out about having been physically or psychologically tortured! I bet it’ll beat Viagra in sales; maybe they should give out samples at High School graduations?

      But anyway, it does seem a little odd to be pursuing what I assume will be a drug-based treatment for depression that was induced by physical means. I suppose externally-imposed depression might cause the same kinds of neurochemical imbalances associated with some forms of depression that may be associated with genetic issues, but if that’s not been proven to happen yet then this study will either be attempting to correct chemical imbalances that may not exist or it will be developing a new anti-anxiety drug, like Xanax v2.0. I can see the ads already, “Ask your Doctor if Calmtherat-X®©™ 100mg is right for YOU!”

      Then again, maybe they plan on trying out ibogaine, psilocybin, or salvinorin-A on the rats (among other legally-awkward molecules being studied as promising treatments for depression at the moment). But I don’t think that class of drugs would work on them like it does on humans as the visionary component is crucial to the efficacy of such medicines (with the possible exception of salvinorin-A), which also means new animal studies are not necessary at all as they’re generally recognized as safe. The only contraindications against their widespread therapeutic use seem to be that the law still thinks they’re the same as crack and that they aren’t patentable (yet).

    2. Welcome to the real world Mr. Eirinn.

      Only thing you can do to stop this is to deny medical treatment. When you happen do develop a cancer from messing with dangerous substances then just refuse to be treated.

      Or could you explain how is this any different from injecting cancerogens into rats to test cancer treatment?

      1. As someone who recently lost a close family member to cancer I can say whole heartedly that I will refuse chemo and radiation. The drugs are pretty much what killed him (brain hemorrhage was a side effect) not to mention the other myriad of side effects that sapped what little remaining strength he had.

        If cancer threatens my life; I will not threaten my will to live by drugging myself into oblivion.

        Besides, death runs in my family.

        1. Forgot to mention that depression is over diagnosed in the US and any research going into peddling another feel better pill or an anti depressant marketed toward people who feel bullied should be regarded as a waste of time. Most pharmaceuticals treat you they don’t cure you; pharma isn’t interested in curing people only in making patients of us all ($$$$)

          “Wrong diet medicine not work. Proper diet medicine not needed.”
          -Ayurvedic proverb.

        2. Speak for yerself. Personally, I plan to live forever and thus far I’m doing a D*MNED good job of it!

          Actually, on the serious side, my thoughts align pretty well with yours about “no heroic measures”, etc. Why put yourself through all of that if you’d still die within a year or so?

  15. Meh, animals are here for our entertainment and hunger cravings. If it aint sentient, poke it by all means. If you want to cure something in humans, by all means inflict it willingly on animals and try to cure it by any bizarre and cruel method imaginable. If i measure cancer or even depression of one human against the same fate of a thousand induced death sentences of fury little cuties, i choose the human. They are rats. And a billion of em is still not worth one finger of my daughter.

    When im hungry, ill eat that fluffy bunny. Il take it by the legs and beat it against the tire. Ill tear its skin off and boil it. It will be glorious.

    When the lady next door dies, im certain the cats will have a bite or two. They consider None of those self proclamed righteous notions born of an oversized ego of another animal who proclaimed himself saviour and king of all. Grow up. We aint that important and neither is the rats.

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