The Behavior of the Laboratory Rat

“The principal function of the nervous system is to produce behavior. Thus, the ultimate goal of most behavioral work with laboratory animals in neuroscience is to understand how molecular events in the nervous system come to produce behavior and, as a corollary, how changes in molecular events produce differences in behavior. Understanding these issues offers hope for understanding the nature of the human mind, which some may argue is the fundamental question in neuroscience. But perhaps even more important is that understanding brain-behavior relationships offers a way to find treatments for dysfunctions of behavior, whether they are in the province of neurology or psychiatry. Advances in molecular and cellular neuroscience have been dramatic over the past two decades, but most of these advances have been independent of an understanding of how they relate to behavior. This is changing. Neuroscientists oriented toward molecular research are increasingly looking to the ultimate function of the phenomenon that they have been studying— behavior. For the majority of behavioral studies, this means studying the behavior of the laboratory rat.”