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(CNN) - Rats can be taught to play hide and seek, and scientists have discovered that they scream with joy when they win.
It is known that both wild and domesticated animals play, but neuroscientists at Humboldt University in Berlin wanted to know more about the subject after hearing pet owners and veterinarians say that rats seemed to participate in more complex game forms.
"It has long been known that rats participate in simple forms of play, such as somersaults and falls, but we wanted to know if they could make more complex games, such as hiding," neurobiologist Michael Brecht, author of the study published in Science magazine.
Locked up in a laboratory with rats and a selection of remotely controlled boxes, a team of scientists played a version of the children's game with rodents, teaching them how to hide and find researchers.
Over a period of a few weeks, they discovered that the rats quickly learned to hide and seek, and even began to develop tactics and strategies for the game.
Instead of feeding them, the rats were tickled as a reward for hiding and finding the researchers.
But after being discovered, the rats sometimes "hid again", even if that meant a delay in receiving their reward; That's proof, scientists believe, that the rats were playing just for fun.
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Although quiet when they were hiding, the researchers said the rats "squealed with joy" when they discovered the scientists, something the researchers believe shows an understanding of the rules of the game.
"It seems they are having fun, they come running," Brecht told CNN. “They are very vocal, they call all the time because they are excited about that. But then they hide and are quite silent, ”he said.
Brecht also said his team offered the animals "stupid" hiding places, like transparent boxes, but the animals played strategically, opting for "smart hiding places", opaque boxes, which provided better coverage.
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The team studied neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex of rats while playing, and discovered that several cells in the brain region responded to certain aspects of the game.
The research could offer more information about the link between play and cognitive skills, Brecht believes.