For years, scientists have been aware that mice can express their pain in what is called the "mouse grimace scale" -- not to be mistaken with the "mouse Grimace scale" which calculates how many live mice to feed the McDonald's homunculus. But now researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology have discovered that mice, like humans, use their faces to convey a whole series of emotions with all the nuance and range of a Streep or an Ice Cube or, at the very least, a Chalamet or an Ice T.
Published in Science, the German study posits that rodent facial expressions are "innate and sensitive reflections of the internal emotional state in mice." But given their teeny, tiny mice mugs, it would have taken scientists (not a group known for their mastery of reading facial social cues) years to tell apart their nuanced expressions. Instead, automated facial recognition tech was used to capture and categorize what researchers believe to be the six basic emotional expressions of lab mice, which are:
-- Fear (Wait, what are you doing with that shampoo bottle?)
-- Nausea (Stop making me drink shampoo from that bottle.)
-- Pain (The shampoo! It burns my eyes!)
-- Flight (That's it, I'm getting out of this Pantene torture dungeon.)
-- Disgust (History will judge you for your shampoo crimes, sir.)
-- Pleasure (Actually, my coat has never been glossier.)
Unfortunately, the discovery that mice can expertly emote feelings won't allow them to leave the science lab to star in the inevitable live-action Disney remake of The Great Mouse Detective. Their value as test subjects has never been greater as their facial range might lead to the cure for depression. While measuring their brain activity, researchers found that specific neurons lit up at the exact moment of outward expression. This could lead to the discovery of "emotional neurons" which according to co-author Nadine Gogolla could "help us to understand how we can interfere with the activity in particular brain regions to ease (people's) suffering," and scientists tinkering with brains to ease suffering tends to score painfully high on the mouse grimace scale.
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