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Health Talk Recommends: Mental time travel in rats

The ability to plan ahead, or imagine the future, was once thought to be a unique human trait. Several years ago, A. David Redish, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Adam Johnson (Ph.D. 2008, Graduate Program in Neuroscience) discovered that rats making decisions sometimes considered the future options available. Using “place cells” in the rat hippocampus from which they could decode the rat’s position in the maze, they found that rats could imagine where it could eat next. This marked the first hard evidence that the ability to plan ahead is not uniquely human. Further work from Redish’s team found that these processes co-occur with evaluations of those future options. This work is now making researchers re-evaluate whether imagination is uniquely human. Sound crazy? Check out this amazing new video from the BBC2’s ‘Science Club.

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