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Scientists Train Goldfish To Drive A Water Filled Car Around A Road

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Scientists have trained goldfish to drive a vehicle.


A goldfish has successfully driven a robotic car in new research from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. While it almost sounds like a Dr Seuss book, it was an actual experiment to explore animal behaviour.

The pioneering FOV reacts to a fish’s movements in the water to accelerate, turn and stop.


A team of biomedical engineers and neuroscientists were able to train goldfish to drive the “car” and navigate themselves to targets to win rewards of food pellets.


Six different fish successfully steered the vehicle across rooms to the targets whilst avoiding dead ends and decoy targets.


The FOV, fitted with four motorized wheels, moves by tracking the driver fish’s movements with a camera, a computer and light detection technology.


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Each fish learned to steer towards a pink target in a nine-foot by 13-foot room to earn themselves a pellet.

The researchers tested whether the fish was really navigating by placing a clearly visible target on the wall opposite the tank. After a few days of training, the fish navigated to the target. Moreover, they were able to do so even if they were interrupted in the middle by hitting a wall and they were not fooled by false targets placed by the researchers.


The study led the researchers to two conclusions.


"The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment. Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in an environment completely unlike the one they evolved in. As anyone who has tried to learn how to ride a bike or to drive a car knows, it is challenging at first," says Shachar Givon, a PhD student in the Life Sciences Department in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.


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