Do Rats On Drugs Listen To Miles Davis? Depends.

Years ago, this experiment got written up a few places with headlines like, "Your tax dollars at work!" But that's what happens when your experiment gives rats cocaine and makes them listen to jazz.

Of course, the experiment wasn't about seeing if cocaine helped rats enjoy jazz (although it does). The first experiment involved rats being taken from their lab colony and dumped in a cell during which they listened to 90 minutes of Miles Davis' Four. Scientists observed them, noting how much they moved around (this was scientifically dubbed "locomotor activity"), and then they were taken back to their enclosures. After a few days of this, they were taken back to their music appreciation chambers, but this time half of the group was dosed with methamphetamines, and half with saline solution. One would imagine that the locomotor activity picked up a bit in the meth group.

Do Rats On Drugs Listen To Miles Davis? Depends.

After seven days of this treatment, the rats were left alone for a day, and then taken to a new room. In this new environment, unconnected to the saline or the drugs, they had one last round of Miles Davis. While the rats were listening, undrugged, to the music, they were again checked for locomotor activity. The meth rats showed a lot more than the saline rats. The meth rats were also found to have elevated levels of dopamine — a chemical associated both with motor control and pleasure. Essentially, the scientists were proving that musical cues could induce states similar to being drugged, if the cues were associated with drugs.

The next experiment started by introducing another population of rats to Miles Davis' Four, and also to Beethoven's Für Elise. In this experiment the rats controlled a dial, letting them listen to whichever song they wished. Most of the rats just wished for silence, and turned a dial so that they got it. The scientists then injected cocaine into the drugs, and made them listen to their least-favorite music choice. (Not to jazz, just to whatever was their least-favorite option.) Sure enough, a few sessions with cocaine got rats to prefer their least-favorite music. They turned to it because it was the only way they had to get the physical and mental kick they'd gotten from the drugs.

This may not be the best possible experiment done to test drug behavior, but it wasn't using coke to teach rats to like jazz. The first experiment showed that music that rats associated with drugs could induce physical responses in the rats which, in some ways, mimicked drugs. The second experiment showed that the rats would take steps to seek out those responses. Musical cues, if associated with drug use, could induce physical and behavioral responses in rats.

(Now if the next experiment gets the rats to respond physically and behaviorally to John Cage's 4'33", I'd be very impressed.)

[Via Music and Methamphetamine, Music Induced Context Preference Following Cocaine Conditioning in Rats]