When Goldfish Drive: Researchers Unveil “FOV”

You’ve heard of power-operated vehicles, also known as scooters or POVs.

goldfish driving while in motorized water tank

A Twitter image from one of the researchers showed a goldfish driving the power mobility device.

But how about an FOV — a fish-operated vehicle?

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel — who hail from a range of fields, including life sciences, biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and computer science — wanted to test the ability of an animal to navigate through a unique environment.

In the end, they taught goldfish to drive what they called a fish-operated vehicle, and but Complex Rehab Technology professionals might compare to a highly customized type of power mobility device… complete with alternative driving controls.

The Feb. 15, 2022, issue of Behavioural Brain Research published the study that investigated an animal’s ability to navigate through a completely foreign space — in this case, the ability of goldfish to navigate over dry land. Noting the importance of navigation for animal survival, “it makes sense to explore whether space representation and navigation mechanisms are dependent on the species, ecological system, brain structures, or whether they share general any universal properties,” the abstract said.

For this task, the researchers placed a goldfish in a water tank atop “a wheeled terrestrial platform that reacts to the fish’s movement characteristics, location, and orientation in its water tank to change the vehicle’s, i.e., the water tank’s, position in the arena.”

Fish looking through the tank’s transparent walls could see targets outside and — motivated by food-pellet rewards — learned to drive the mobility device by moving within the tank. To drive forward while veering right, for example, the fish would simultaneously swim forward and toward the right-most corner of its tank.

The fish “indeed were able to operate the vehicle, explore the new environment, and reach the target regardless of the starting point, all while avoiding dead ends and correcting location inaccuracies,” the abstract noted.

“These results demonstrate how a fish was able to transfer its space representation and navigation skills to a wholly different terrestrial environment.”

Read the report here.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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