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Wealth and ambition

Rats living in fancier digs seek richer rewards

3:10pm, December 3, 2010

Give lab rats a week at the Rodent Ritz and they’re not thinking Cheerios so much anymore. They’re thinking chocolate.

Upgrading their real estate changed rats’ bias in guessing what to do about ambiguous cues in a lab test, says cognitive neuroscientist Nichola Brydges of the University of Edinburgh.

A week after moving into a bigger, better furnished cage, rats had grown more likely to take a chance that a confusing signal would lead to a bit of chocolate to eat — an indication of optimism — instead of just half a Cheerio. Rats had been trained that a wrong choice in responding to a cue would mean not getting any reward, so they

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