Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rats' Senses A Whisker Away From Humans

Date:
February 15, 2007
Source:
University of Sheffield
Summary:
The sophisticated way in which rats use their whiskers in their surrounding environments show significant parallels with how humans use their fingertips, according to new research carried out at the University of Sheffield.

High-speed video photograph of a rat exploring a wall with its facial whiskers. The whiskers on the right lightly touch against the wall whilst those on the left move further than usual as the animal tries to make contact with the surface on all of its whiskers. (Image courtesy of University of Sheffield)
Credit: University of Sheffield

The sophisticated way in which rats use their whiskers in their surrounding environments show significant parallels with how humans use their fingertips, according to new research carried out at the University of Sheffield.

Rats are tactile animals that use their facial whiskers as their primary sense. These whiskers are swept back and forth, or `whisked´ many times each second. Research carried out by Dr Tony Prescott and colleagues from the University´s Department of Psychology found that these whisker movements are actively controlled like human fingertips.

They found that whiskers near a point of contact subsequently move less, while those away from it move more. This active control of whiskers, allows a rat to `home-in´ on interesting objects in their environment, while ensuring that their whiskers touch gently against objects rather than bending strongly against them.

Until now, the understanding of what guides whisker movements during natural behaviour was limited, largely due to the difficulty of accurately observing whisker positions in freely moving animals. The researchers, however, used high-speed video and recordings of muscle activity to study how `whisking´ behaviour in rats changes upon contact with an object.

Dr Tony Prescott said: "If you are exploring a surface with your hand you will control the position of your fingertips so as to get as much information as possible from each touch. We are discovering that rats do something very similar with their whiskers. That is, they adjust the movements of their whiskers on a moment-by-moment basis using information from each contact to decide how best to position their whiskers for the next one."

The researchers are currently working with Bristol Robotics Laboratory to build a robot with an artificial whisker sense in order to better understand rat whisking behaviour and to develop artificial touch systems that may be useful for robots.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Sheffield. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Sheffield. "Rats' Senses A Whisker Away From Humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070215113020.htm>.
University of Sheffield. (2007, February 15). Rats' Senses A Whisker Away From Humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070215113020.htm
University of Sheffield. "Rats' Senses A Whisker Away From Humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070215113020.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) — West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) — Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) — The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins