Anti-Anxiety Drug Found to Limit Empathy in Rats


Midazolam Image:


A graduate of Cornell University, Josh Gibson, MD, continued his education at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the University of California, San Francisco. A psychiatrist practicing in San Francisco, Josh Gibson, MD, maintains a strong interest in the study of empathy.

Recently, neuroscientists at the University of Chicago found that rats given midazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, became less likely to free companions that were trapped. The scientists surmised that the drug lessened their empathy.

The University of Chicago research builds upon previous research demonstrating empathy in rats. Studies have shown that rats are emotionally motivated to help their companions in distress.

In the new study, control rats would routinely free trapped companions by opening the door to a restrainer device. Rats treated with midazolam did not complete the same action despite the fact that the drug does not interfere with any physical ability to open the door. However, when the restrainer device contained chocolate rather than a constrained companion, rats treated with midazolam would regularly open the door to collect the treat.


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