Rats can be as imaginative as humans. This conclusion was reached by specialists at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States, writes Slashdot.

The researchers found that rodents can imagine desired places and objects that are not in front of them. Just like humans, at this point, they activate neural activity in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for spatial memory.

To find out, campus researchers have developed a new system that combines virtual reality and a brain-machine interface. In this way, they investigated the cognitive capabilities of rats, and the results were published in the journal Science.

The ability to imagine places far away from the current position is fundamental to remembering past events and imagining possible future scenarios. Scientists have found that rodents can not only imagine places and objects, they are also able to hold these thoughts for a long time.

“The stunning thing is how rats learn to think about that place, and no other place, for a very long period of time, based on our, perhaps naive, notion of the attention span of a rat,” scientists say.

The study also shows that the brain-machine interface can be used to study activity in the hippocampus. In addition, this work opens up new opportunities for prosthetics.