Caren's Reviews > The Lab Rat Chronicles: A Neuroscientist Reveals Life Lessons from the Planet's Most Successful Mammals

The Lab Rat Chronicles by Kelly Lambert
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's review
Oct 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: adult-nonfiction

This book, written by a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, relates how her twenty-five years of research using lab rats has led to conclusions about human behavior. Does this sound dry to you? Well, let me add that Dr. Lambert has also won teaching awards, and she uses her skills to make this a thoroughly engaging and often humorous foray into the lab. She obviously has great respect and admiration for the little rodents. Toward the end of the book, she recounts a visit to an inner city alley to view rats in the wild. The ways in which she connects what she has learned of rat behavior to human behavior are fascinating. Many anecdotes about rats enliven the text, so that, by the end of the book, you too may feel some affection and admiration for these resilient mammals. Of course, you may also feel a twinge of unease when you learn of how rats have adapted to living alongside humans and how clever they are at avoiding human means to trap, poison, or otherwise 'do them in'. The true point of her book,though, is not to learn about rats, but to make useful discoveries about human behavior. At the end of the book, she lists some key points researchers have learned from studying rats (and here I will quote her exactly):
1) challenging and complex environments build better brains 2) practice may not make perfect, but it transforms brains 3) relevant and rewarding work provides an emotional lift 4)healthy lifestyles are nature's best medicine 5)day-to-day coping strategies are essential for avoiding stress-related diseases 6)social networks define neural networks 7)cleanliness promotes healthy bodies and minds 8)physical activity promotes brain growth 9)the races we run should have clear destinations 10) when it comes to aggression, less is better 11) psychological stress is toxic 12) nature's neurochemicals represent the best pharmacological treatments 13)family trees have deep roots and deserve our respect.
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