Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Depressed Hamsters Help Researchers 172

Posted by Zonk
from the sad-little-squeakers dept.
Ant wrote to mention an ABC News article indicating that hampsters feel the same effects during the winter months as humans do. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), winter-related depression affects up to 20 percent of Americans. From the article: "For example, if the animals spend more time hovering near the walls of their containers, rather than at the center, it's believed they feel more anxious. If they decline to slurp up tempting offers of sugar water, scientists take it as a sign of depression. Another test involves placing the animals in water and seeing if they swim or simply give up and float. Hamsters don't sink apparently, but float in water. 'The sooner they give up in the water, the more depressed they are,' Pyter said. 'If you give them an antidepressant they don't give up as quickly.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Depressed Hamsters Help Researchers

Comments Filter:
  • by l-ascorbic (200822) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:39AM (#14227654)
    There is no "P". Dear god. After all those years of that fucking hampsterdance crap, people would've learnt that that's the wrong way to spell it.
    • There's plenty of P in hampster cages.
      Why do you think the P is in there?

      And I learned in school that "learnt" isn't a word.
      • Well you learnt wrong [answers.com].
        • My Webster's dictionary must be out of date, because it only has "learned" and no mention of learnt. Enough people might use it these days for it to be considered a real word, but if you're playing scrabble with a dictionary a few years old, I don't think you'll find it.

          It sounds like I could of, vs could have. Lazy speech leads to the improper use of "could of" since "have" sounds a bit like "of" when said without emphasis.

          We must both have SAD, we're debating spelling on Slashdot.
          • My Webster's dictionary must be out of date

            Your Webster's dictionary is most likely very up-to-date; Webster was an American, and one of their most prominent spelling reform advocates. learned is the American spelling, learnt is used by the rest of the world. Same goes for spelled vs. spelt, and others.

            Pick up the Oxford Canadian dictionary -- it generally contains the proper Canadian form, as well as popular alternatives from American or British spelling as the case may be. It also contains the correct
            • A toboggan is different from a sled. A sled is two metal rails connected by bits of wood for sitting. A toboggan, however, is a sheet of wood which curls up at the end. :)
              • A toboggan is different from a sled.

                Of course, but no Canadian would be caught dead on a sled. A toboggan is the ultimate implement of slope sliding. Uncontrollable, and literally explodes into a hail of splinters when landing on top of logs or smashing into trees.

                Speaking of which, if I'm ever cremated it's going to be by roping my corpse to a toboggan, throwing it down a steep slope, and bailing into a bonfire a the bottom.
  • Interesting (Score:2, Funny)

    by Hope Thelps (322083)
    If they decline to slurp up tempting offers of sugar water, scientists take it as a sign of depression.

    The depression diet plan? Someone could make a fortune out of the book rights.
  • by Yst (936212) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:46AM (#14227674)

    Hamsters don't sink apparently, but float in water.

    These are some exciting results!

    You learn something new every day. With results like these, how far away can self-replicating autonomous nanobots be?

    • I like the way they put the minor disclaimer in ther "apparantly".
      My bet is they actually checked out the principle.

      On a slightly similar subject (ahem!) my kids have a hamster, we decided to call him "flump".
      Lots of people ask us why, we don't usually say but "apparantly" thats the noise a hamster makes after you free them from a toilet roll tube with air pressure.
    • Not only that but apparently they managed to breed hovering hamsters too.

      Flying cars are on the way !
    • It's obvious from the headline that the researchers are just looking for a cute, cuddly way of curing their SADness...
  • by Chaffar (670874) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:47AM (#14227678)
    Tips For Beating Seasonal Depression
    Exercise
    Rosenthal suggests that going for a walk or jog, or doing some other form of exercise can also help beat the blues. Exercising is even more effective against SAD if done outside during bright daytime hours.
    Eat well
    It may be the time of year that you crave comfort foods that are full of starches and sugar, but Rosenthal says these foods can exacerbate seasonal affective disorder.
    Get away
    If all else fails and if you have the time and money, take a vacation to a sunny place.

    Exercise? Eat well? Get away? This article has no purpose to insult us geeks. But I did leave the best for last:

    Go outside
    Spend as much time outside as possible and when inside, try to maximize your exposure to natural sunlight.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well, they still have
      Light therapy Some studies have shown that flicking on extra bright fluorescent light boxes at dawn or as soon as you wake can help diminish the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

      Now that is a nice technical solution. Especially with the "as soon as you wake" part, which can be 3pm after a hard night's gaming.

      And Go Away is advice that girls have been giving geeks since, well, as long as there have been geeks.
    • by ciroknight (601098) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:10AM (#14227731)
      You know, it sounds like you're right, but it seems anymore that the whole medical profession's advice is simply "Diet, exercize, get some sun but not too much, drink plenty of water". It sounds redundant every time you hear it, and some of us get pissed that there's not simply a pill we can take to fix us, but the truth is simply we weren't built to live the way we are today. We were hunter gatherers, we were used to being outside all the time, we were used to plenty of clean water, we were used to getting plenty of exercize just to find food, and the foods we ate were lean.

      Now, it's too easy to spend your entire day without moving more than 100 feet (under your own power), to drink stimulants and sugar rich liquids, and to eat foods that aren't even digestible to some bacteria.

      The medical profession can only offer that as advice anymore, as medicine can only take us humans so much further. Today they've got a pill for just about anything you could imagine, but it still doesn't replace the simple nessecities we as machines need to operate. We just haven't reached the point where we can compress water, fresh air and sunshine into a pill, and hopefully we never will.

      So while it might be insulting, maybe you should take it as a wakeup call that your lifestyle is entirely unmaintainable. Maybe you should take their advice and shake the winter blues, and a few pounds that we could all stand to lose anyways. I don't need a hamster to tell me twice, and hopefully neither should a scientist.
      • You know, it sounds like you're right, but it seems anymore that the whole medical profession's advice is simply "Diet, exercize, get some sun but not too much, drink plenty of water". It sounds redundant every time you hear it, and some of us get pissed that there's not simply a pill we can take to fix us, but the truth is simply we weren't built to live the way we are today. We were hunter gatherers, we were used to being outside all the time, we were used to plenty of clean water, we were used to gettin

      • we weren't built to live the way we are

        The truth is, we weren't "built" to live beyond the age needed to produce successful offspring. It is just wrong to assume that all the diseases adults get, including depression, could be cured by operating our bodies the way they were "designed." After our early twenties, our bodies are running in "garbage in, garbage out" mode because we weren't "designed" to live past those ages.
        • It is just wrong to assume that all the diseases adults get, including depression, could be cured by operating our bodies the way they were "designed."

          True. That's why instead of assuming it, scientists are performing experiments.

        • We weren't? Then why do we on a regular basis even without medical intervention?

          The longer we stick around, the more knowledge and generativity we can give back to humanity helps every one else stick around. That is, every other cave manfigures out that the old cave man must have lived longer because he's the only one to cook his food and not leave it sit in the sun when he stores it. The more social an animal is, the longer it seems to live, because experience wins. The old ones help the young ones.
    • Tips For Beating Seasonal Depression

      Exercise Rosenthal suggests that going for a walk or jog, or doing some other form of exercise can also help beat the blues. Exercising is even more effective against SAD if done outside during bright daytime hours.


      Hamster wheels are now being installed in mental hospitals throughout the country.
    • try to maximize your exposure to natural sunlight

      The last time I tried it my pasty white geek skin got burned to a crisp. Of course I was in so much pain I forgot I was depressed so it kind of worked.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Those russian hamsters are absolutely adorable - IMO one of the best pets. I have two Roborovskii russian hamsters and they are the best hamsters we've ever had. They never bite and are so amazingly playful.

    http://images.google.co.uk/images?q=roborovskii&ie =ISO-8859-1&hl=en&btnG=Search+Images [google.co.uk]

    • Ah yes, but many of those are so-called "sleeper" hamsters, genetically modified to live for decades (many have been around since the beginning of the Cold War.) Upon a posthypnotic command from their long forgotten Soviet masters, they are designed to turn into organic micronukes and volatilize a few city blocks in a sudden glare of actinic light. Fortunately, after the fall of the Empire no-one seems to know what that command is, but still ... you should be careful what you say to them.

      You, ah ... you
    • They are adorable. How fast can they breed?

      Ideally I would need one to mature every week or so, for my python...

    • Russian hamsters are adorable, and potentially traumatizing. I got a pair of them when I was seven. Two months later, I woke up one morning to find the one hamster hunched over the other's corpse. I swear to you: he was eating his head.

      In Soviet Russia, hamsters eat YOU!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:49AM (#14227684)
    The only problem with all these studies with species that can't communicate is that there's more than one explanation for observed behaviour. But one always appears to attach an explanation that supports what one wants to find. How do you know that a hamster hovering near the walls is feeling anxiety? Or not drinking the water is depression?
    • How do you know that a hamster hovering near the walls is feeling anxiety?

      Well, that's obvious - if the hamster's feet aren't touching the floor it will drift helplessly around its cage, bouncing off the walls and ceiling, propelled by any random passing breeze. That would make any sentient being anxious...

    • by TCQuad (537187) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @01:35PM (#14228867)
      The only problem with all these studies with species that can't communicate is that there's more than one explanation for observed behaviour.

      In other news, hamsters can only tolerate 12 hours of constant fluorescent light before being driven insane by it. One hamster, who had been exposed to 16 hours per day for 60 days, was quoted as saying "I knew once I stopped struggling in that water, they'd put me in the box, man! And you don't ever want to go back to that box!"

      Unidentified sources within the 16-hour per day hamster camp have stated that it's gotten so bad, even the reflection of the light from the plexiglass walls is antagonizing. It's driven the hamsters from their normal comfort zone into the wide-open middle of the box, where predators, if they existed, would be able to attack and where the only hope of escape is to run faster than the hamster next to you; as such, the hamsters have been gorging on sugar-water for quick-burning fuel.
  • Hampster (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jebediah21 (145272) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @07:50AM (#14227687) Homepage Journal
    WTF is a hampster?
    • Re:Hampster (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "WTF is a hampster?"

      Obviously, Hampster is the RIAA's answer to Napster.

      from Hamper:
      Etymology: Middle English
      1 a : to restrict the movement of by bonds or obstacles : IMPEDE b : to interfere with the operation of : DISRUPT
      2 a : CURB, RESTRAIN b : to interfere with : ENCUMBER
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "WTF is a hampster?"

      You throw a dirty hamster into one of those.
    • Re:Hampster (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:06AM (#14227725)
      Part hamster, part hamper, the hampster displaces the capybara as the largest known rodent. The hampster thrives on dirty clothes, which it stores in its oversized cheek pouches.
    • Hampster: a common typo for the word "hamster". Other explainations include a badly titled website, a clothes hamper crossed with Napster internet radio, or a 4 year old's feeble attempt to pronounce "hamster" correctly.

      But seriously, lighten up. I only caught the typo once in the blurb, and one typo is a LOT better than the normal convoluted grammar and unparsable sentences we normally get from the editors, but I agree it'd be nice if they did some simple proofreading and at least a spellcheck before it
      • Re:Hampster (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dun Malg (230075)
        I only caught the typo once in the blurb

        Actually, it's not a typo. A typo (short for typographical error) is an error caused by hitting the wrong keys while using the keyboard. "Hampster" is a spelling error. The difference is that the former is not a sign of ignorance.

      • It's all fine, I just find it funny the site even offers subscriptions when simple spellcheck or proofing is beyond the staff.
    • Re:Hampster (Score:5, Funny)

      by sacrilicious (316896) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:52AM (#14227939) Homepage
      WTF is a hampster?

      It's a p2p network for exchanging hams. Smoked, honey-roasted, bone-in/out, the selection is incredible. Sometimes it takes a long time to download, and the quality can be variable, but hey it's free.


    • WTF is a hampster?

      Is a nickname for students of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. I don't know why the researchers have caged them, but that and the exams could be a better explanation for their sadness than the season.

  • Assumptions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Assuming that other critters feel emotions the same way we do is foolish.

    For instance, one of the symptoms of depression is sleeping too much. Based on that, we can conclude that bears suffer from extreme depression during the winter. After all, they do nothing but sleep.
    • Foolish yes, but I also sense growth potential for the pharmaceutical industry. I actually know a woman who shares her prozac with her dog during the winter. :\

      -CGP [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • Thats all well and good but did anyone stop to ask the hamster's how _they_ felt about it?
  • by mrRay720 (874710) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:04AM (#14227722)
    "Another test involves placing the animals in water and seeing if they swim or simply give up and float. Hamsters don't sink apparently, but float in water."

    That's not the test to see if a hamster is depressed, it's the test to see if the hamster is a witch.
  • Let's see... cage up some hamsters, deprive them of natural light, natural surroundings, and buddies, give them an artificial sucrose-laden diet, see how they get depressed, give them drugs to make them happy?

    And then suggest that these results could apply to people? Brave New World, anyone?

    Drugs. will. not. fix. you.

    Get out of your cage, get into the open, make better relationships, find a job that respects you, stop moving home every couple of years, start talking to your family not shouting at them, eat
    • by Rhinobird (151521) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:13AM (#14227736) Homepage

      Let's see... cage up some hamsters, deprive them of natural light, natural surroundings, and buddies, give them an artificial sucrose-laden diet, see how they get depressed, give them drugs to make them happy?

      And then suggest that these results could apply to people?

      Yeah really. I mean their hamsters, right? Completely different biology involved. Now I have to get back to my windowless cubicle and finish that soda that's getting warm on my desk. Good thing there's nobody around on the weekends. I feel so alone...

    • I might be depressed but am to drunk and stoned to care.

      But yeah the study does kind of suck. Could it be possible the hamster is depressed about constantly being dropped in a bucket? Would depress me.

    • Um, did you, oh I don't know, actually READ the article before going off on your nice little rant? The suggestions in the article are to get as much time as you can outside, eat well, drink plenty of water, and exercise. So can you tell me where big pharma's cut in that is? As I see it, if you follow the advice given in the article then you are much less likely to need drugs. Though you could use the proverbial "chill pill" of course.
      • Rosenthal is hopeful that studies, like those with the hamsters at OSU, may help yield more effective drugs for those most affected by SAD...

        It it about developing "more effective drugs". These studies are sponsored by drugs companies.
    • Get out of your cage, get into the open, make better relationships, find a job that respects you, stop moving home every couple of years, start talking to your family not shouting at them, eat decent food instead of that sugar-laden "lo-fat" junk you're stuffing your face with, stop watching TV, cut down on the booze, and the religion, and for baby jesus' sake, stop taking artificial drugs.

      And stop reading your posts. That was one of the most depressing paragraphs ever written.

    • Let's see... cage up some hamsters, deprive them of natural light, natural surroundings, and buddies, give them an artificial sucrose-laden diet, see how they get depressed, give them drugs to make them happy? And then suggest that these results could apply to people?

      Animal models for testing antidepressant drugs do have a surprisingly good track record of predicting clinical efficacy in humans. Drugs that work in humans show strong effects in these animal models

      Get out of your cage, get into the o

    • "Drugs. will. not. fix. you."

      It's unwise to rely on them exclusively, but drugs can help quite a bit with depression.
      • Re:Tom Cruise? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Best advice I ever had when I had my depressive period - don't let the doctors near you, they'll fill you with drugs. I got myself through it and am a much better person for it.

        I've seen what antidepressants do to people - my wife was prescribed them for stomach cramps.. took them for two days and the effect was so awful I hope I never see a human being in that state again. They work by making the person unable to function - the zombie effect. Sitting in a corner dribbling is not my idea of being 'helpe
        • "Best advice I ever had when I had my depressive period - don't let the doctors near you, they'll fill you with drugs. I got myself through it and am a much better person for it."

          The fact that most doctors want to throw drugs at you does not imply that they don't work, and is in no way unique to depression. The best advice is exactly the same as with any other drug a doctor might prescribe: don't blindly accept anything they throw at you.

          Therapy in addition to anti-depressants has by far best success rate i
  • if their entire lives weren't just a science experiment
  • by Sly Mongoose (15286) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:36AM (#14227775) Homepage
    A depressed hamster is suffering from a condition known as SAD? Shoot him full of speed and throw him in the river and he makes like a furry outboard engine?

    I nominate thhe discoverers of these critical scientific facts for an award.....
    • Researchers also discovered that cats, when used as outboard engines, suffer from a syndrome called Mental-Aggressive Disorder. Strapped to a skateboard and pushed down a ramp, they exhibit signs of Rushing Adrenaline Disease. Those who survived were found to be capable of making pictures with Computer Aided Drafting, even though the structures they drew were Beyond Average Disasters.

      Acronyms like this cause my Perverse Aversion to Internet News on Science. That's why I read Slashdot.
  • Another test involves placing the animals in water and seeing if they swim or simply give up and float.

    Wait... I think I'm working for these guys...

    I must be a Hampster... Hamster... Hempster???

  • Isn't this old news? And it so makes me remember the depressed hampsters [webhamster.com] from the early 1990s.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:55AM (#14227806) Journal
    I can easily see that being relatively sedentary in the winter cuold be advantageous from a survival standpoint. Who says you have to be perky all the time?

    -jcr

  • by Iron Fusion (591400) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:04AM (#14227821)
    I am the only one sick of trite/simplistic criticisms of scientific studies based on mainstream news articles? Maybe try to read between the lines rather than attack something based on what is most likely a simplification or omission for the sake of a mainstream audience.
    • Read between the lines? You mean just assume it's true? Why should we just accept things on faith that they have been 'dumbed down' and are actually true? I understand being frustrated with smarmy responses from /. readers, but just accepting results on blind faith because they have to be 'dumbed down' is absolutely ridiculous.
  • by adolfojp (730818) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:26AM (#14227866)
    "Hamster psychiatry is a pseudoscience," Tom Criuse told host Matt Lauer, later saying: "You don't know the history of rodent psychiatry. I do."

    Sorry, couldn't help it. I haven't taken my vitamins today. :-P

    Adolfo
  • by bobalu (1921)
    Geez, I thought the mice were running everything... now the hamsters are getting into the act!
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by vasko (168613)
    I, for one, welcome our new depressed overlords.
  • Americans (meaning USians) don't even live that far north (with the exception of Alaskians).

    Up here at the 59th parallel (Stockholm) we're used to darkness!

    Now I got depressed.
  • I rate hamster "life force" by the rate that they go for their treats. This definitely slows down during the winter months and they do not seem to enjoy life as much.

    To compensate for the darker days, I keep my present freind Franklin the Hamster [google.com] under a lamp all the time except when I sleep (he's by my bed) and is definitely seems to be keeping him "up."

    Favorite treats are eggs and flower petals.

    • He's probably supposed to be hibernating when the seasonal light/dark cycle shifts to winter. It's not depression, it's hibernation! Do hamsters in the wild hibernate? I prefer critters with pointy teeth personally, so I've never kept one (The critters with the pointy teeth would probably find them to be delicious snacks.)

      Anyway, if they're supposed to be hibernating, is it detrimental to their health to keep them up all year? How do the tropical (African?) hamsters fare compared with their northern (Euro

  • I'm sure the hamster would go on paddling and thrashing in the water
    if they applied electrical current to the poor animal. However, I am
    sure after a day or two of this treatment they would have one seriously
    depressed animal on their hands. The way I see it the water test is
    worth shit.

    Hamsters are not rats and they are as I know sulky creatures
    to begin with and loners at heart meaning they don't have a lot of social
    interaction with their fellow hamsters aside from mating and killing each
    other off for territo
  • Why do witches burn?

    Because their made of wood?

    That's right! Now, what else may you do with wood?

    Build a bridge!

    Yes, but could you not also build a bridge out of stone?

    Hmm... good point.

    Tell me: does wood sink in water?

    No! It floats!

    Tell me... what else floats, apart from wood?

    A hamster?

    Correct!

    So, logically, if she weighs the same as a hamster... she's made of wood...? And therefore... a witch? A witch! Burn her, burn her!
  • still no cure for cancer
  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:12AM (#14228224)
    From the article: happy hamsters apparently spend more time hovering near the walls of their cages than near the center.

    Whether or not this is true, I know I'd pay good money for an mpg of that. (how much Xanax does it require to get a hamster to hover?)

  • SAD (Score:2, Informative)

    by wumpus188 (657540)
    It's Seasonal Attitude Disorder. Attitude. Not Affective.
  • Nocturnal (Score:1, Insightful)

    by theantipode (664138)
    Hamsters are nocturnal and primarily found in the desert, which gets quite cold at night. By all rights, shouldn't they be more active come wintertime?
  • The body slows down in winter. If you do the same exercise regime all year round your heart rate will be higher in winter because the body is less fit. I cycle regularly and my legs turn to mush in October. That's why there's a close season.

    What depresses me is Greenwich Mean Time - if the UK could have Central European Time it wouldn't be going dark as I write this (3.45pm). I don't mind if it's dark until 9am; I go to work in the dark as it is and at weekends I'm probably not outdoors at that time. A

    • First, the article is so dim-witted I wasn't expecting any serious responses to it... but I guess I was wrong :p

      Second, if you don't like your time, change it. Put all your clocks one hour ahead. Seriously. I did it this year, and it works great, suddenly everyone is working on my schedule, it gets dark at the proper time, and I don't feel like I'm off all the time. Assume that everyone is wrong and you're right, like I do, and you'll be much happier for it. I am %D

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:52AM (#14228410) Homepage
    You put me in a bucket of water. Oh, that's nice. You could have at least made it warm water, but no. Oh, what's the point? I suppose I'll just lay here and drown. Hope that will make you feel good, drowning a poor hamster. Even if you pull me out of the bucket all I have to look forward to is running in a stupid wheel. I run and run and run but never get anywhere. And all I ever get to eat are pellets and water. Boy, there's a five star menu. It's all so pointless....
  • ...hamsters help depressed researchers? :(
  • My only thought is, "Depressed Hamster Behavior" would be a good name for a band.
  • THE SUN, IT BUUURNS!

    Seriously though, I am more likely to be depressed on days when it is sunny out. Overcast skies / rain brighten me up.

    I call it Reverse SAD. :)
  • by behindthewall (231520) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @02:42PM (#14229167)
    Someone call Letterman.
  • I don't think I'm gonna do it Hamster Style anymore.
  • by craXORjack (726120) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @03:24PM (#14229370)
    I am picturing a hamster running on its little exercise wheel just stopping and thinking to itself "Oh what's the use? It seems like I run and I run and I run but I never seem to get anywhere."
  • Another test involves placing the animals in water and seeing if they swim or simply give up and float.

    Now that's just good science. In my youth, I seem to remember my brother and I performing a similar experiment on our neighbor's cat and their swimming pool.


  • Can I do research on how the fruit flies in my room are depressed whenever I seal up the garbage bag and remove it?

    Or when I hit them with bug spray?

    Or how depressed they make ME feel?

If God is perfect, why did He create discontinuous functions?

Working...