C.S. Lewis’ novel The Magician’s Nephew tells of two children named Polly and Digory living in early 20th century London who set off on an adventure to explore a tunnel that runs through the roof of their row of terraced houses (1). They eventually end up in a strange world ruled by Aslan—a talking lion whose goodness seems altogether repulsive to the evil forces that abound therein. With scenes of jackdaws and moles later competing to see who can be the first to tell a joke, we see in Lewis an author who knows how to inject humor into an otherwise serious message (1).
While recent collaborative studies by groups in China and the United States have not given us Lewis-style talking animals, they have provided some stunning insights into animal memory and learning behaviors. Specifically Deheng Wang and colleagues from Shanghai, Yunnam and the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) generated a transgenic rat strain, affectionately known as ‘Hobbie-J’, that over-expressed a subunit of the brain NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) glutamate receptor called NR2B (2-3). Their behavior experiments repeatedly showed Hobbie-J rats outperforming control litter mates in object recognition and spatial memory tests (2). Continue reading “Hobbie and Doogie: Brainier Rodents With A Therapeutic Potential”