Humans and rats are very much alike than different. Be it the basic physiology, nervous system, hormonal glands, or diseases, most of the things are homologous. No wonder most of the research is done on rodents than any other species. Wrapped in new findings is research presented in the journal eLife. It says that rats are much likely to prioritize their kins or the ‘ingroup’ rats in times of distress. Similar to humans, the doctrine of altruism, in rats, is constructed on familiarity and social bonding rather than sympathy or remorse.
Previously, researchers brought to light the fact that the brain network of rats developed empathy and mirrored the process humans go through. However, the new findings suggest that even though all rats are empathic towards each other, in times when rats have to help a fellow rat, they will prefer helping the member of their ingroup.
Researchers conducted an experiment on more than 60 pairs of rats. In the experiment, one rat was trapped inside a transparent cage with a lid, and the other roamed free in a bigger enclosure. While all rats showed empathy by butting their heads against the cage and the lid, they only tried to free those who were a part of their ingroup. Their brains’ reward circuitry only sparked when they released their kins.
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The results are recorded through a concocted setup of fiber photometry, calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry, and other diagnostic devices. The research clearly showed that the group identity of the trapped rat considerably influenced the free rat’s decision to help and the overall neural response.
The research was primarily authored by Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, assistant professor of psychobiology, Tel-Aviv University, Israel, who, along with Daniel Kaufer, Huanjie Sheng, Kimberly LP, and few other authors, published this study on July 13, 2021.
With identity becoming the source of all clashing discourses and conflicts between ethnic and religious groups globally, the results drawn from the research are vital in today’s day and age. Rather than segregating ourselves into groups, ethnicities, and identities, it is better to work towards oneness and developing a sense of belonging to achieve a common identity.