M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentGuez Or
SubjectTowards Directing Rat (Rattus norvegicus norvegicus)
Movements using the Vibrisal System
DepartmentDepartment of Biology
Supervisors PROFESSOR EMERITUS Zeev Arad
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


The rat (Rattus norvegicus norvegicus) is an underground rodent, mostly active during the night. The rat has the ability to move in narrow, dark underground areas, and has a developed sense of smell. These characters can be used in order to help locate victims trapped in ruined sites.

The behavior of the laboratory rat was extensively studied and it was found that its facial whiskers (vibrissae) have an important role in the rat spatial navigation. This behavior is supported also in behavioral maze studies that have shown that a rat without its vibrissae is constrained in its capacity to move in the maze. The vibrissae are located only in the head region and are represented in the SI cortical region by granular cells.

Previous studies indicate that rats can be navigated without extended learning, by stimulating the SI cortical region.

The present study aimed to examine the rat ability to learn a maze task, and the effect of different stimulations of the vibrissae on its behavior (movement and time). The stimulations that were used in the study were external mechanical stimulations and static stimulations within the maze.

The study examined if the presence of static stimulations at a given location with in the maze can be a sign for the location of a reward, and if a random change in the location of the static stimulus can be a sign for the location of the reward.

The results show that:

1. The static stimulus, as an indicator for the place of the reward, helped the experimental group, compared to the control group, to locate the reward with increased success. 

2. A random change in the location of the static stimulus within the maze had no effect on the rat ability to find the reward.

3. There was no effect of the mechanical external stimulation on the rat behavior.

In conclusion, the present study shows that the rat can learn to perform a task in the maze using its whiskers. The presence of a static stimulus at a given location within the maze helped the rats to locate the reward. However, the static stimulus that was changed randomly and the electromagnetic stimulation had no effect on the rat behavior. The results of this study suggest the possibility of directing the rat movements using by stimulation of the vibrisal system and thus its feasibility in locating survivors under ruins.