|For my 8th grade science fair project I am going
to run mice through mazes. To make it a little
more interesting I am going to put a pulsing
sound at the end to see if the mice can find it
any faster than without a sound. So I was
wondering if you had any research on the way mice
|Question Date: 2004-12-14|
Mouse ears work pretty much the same way our ears
do. However, they are able to hear sounds that
are so high the we can't hear them. They can
communicate with each other with these
"ultrasonic" sounds. They can hear what we hear
too, so they should be able to hear your pulsing
sound just fine. (By the way, according to the US
Centers for Disease Control, Ultrasonic pest
repellers don't work.)
To test your
hypothesis that they find the goal faster with a
sound pulse, you will have to be careful in how
you design your experiment. For example, let's
say you have a maze and you test your mice in it
and find that it takes them 5 minutes to find the
end. Each time they find the end, you give them a
treat. After 10 times, they find the end in 30
seconds. Now you add the sound and they find it
in 15 seconds. Did the sound help, or did they
just keep learning?
Or let's say you test a
new group of mice in the same maze, using the
sound cue, and they find it in 3 minutes the first
time. Did the sound help, or did they smell the
old food that was left behind from earlier tests?
Or did they smell the trail of past
Maybe you change the maze and add the
sound and they find the end in 3 minutes the first
time. Did the sound help, or was this an easier
One way to avoid these problems is to
use "randomization." If you have a few mice, you
flip a coin for each one to see whether it gets
the sound or not. Then you train them in a random
order (pull their number or name out of a hat).
Then the comparison between your tests is fair.
This is not the only way to make a fair test, but
think carefully about your experiment before you
start, because you can't fix it
Have fun with your project.
Most of the research into mouse hearing is overly
technical or probably unrelated to your project.
(There's research about mouse ear stem cells being
used to help people with hearing problems,
research looking for genes related to mouse
hearing, and deafness in mice induced by certain
You may already know that
mice have more acute hearing than we do. Since
they're nocturnal (active at night), and since
they spend so much time in tunnels and small
spaces, they use their hearing more than their
vision for many things. In fact, they are very
sensitive to motion up to 30-50 feet away, and
they detect this motion through hearing and
through their whiskers.
Mice can hear
between sound wave frequencies of 1,000 to 100,000
Hertz, but people can hear frequencies between 20
and 20,000 Hertz. Hertz is a measurement of
frequency or what you and I think of as pitch.
This means that humans can hear lower pitches (20
Hertz) than mice can (1,000 Hertz),but mice can
hear much higher pitches than we can (100,000
Hertz instead of only 20,000 Hertz).
may be able to use this information about sensing
motion or pitch in your experiment somehow. Good luck!
That sounds like a really interesting research
question for your project. I'm not an expert on
rodent hearing, but I can tell you a few things.
First, mice have big ears (for their body size),
so there's a good chance that hearing is quite
important to them. Second, I know that scientists
who do research on hearing problems use mice as
study organisms, so there's a good chance your
experiment will work just fine. As far as how
mice hear, I would suspect that they can hear the
same sound frequencies we can hear, plus they can
probably also hear some higher frequencies. So if
you pick a pulsing sound that you can hear, I bet
the mice will hear it just fine.I also have two
suggestions for your experimental design (although
perhaps you've already thought of these things!).
First, sound waves and other kinds of waves (like
electromagnetic waves) can bend around objects.
This is why you can hear things you can't see,
such as if you and a friend were standing with a
tree between you -- you could still talk to each
other even though the tree was blocking the most
direct path between your mouth and his ears. The
amount that a wave will bend like this depends on
its wavelength -- long wavelengths bend more.
This is why radio waves (long wavelength
electromagnetic waves) can bend around buildings
and mountains, but light waves (short wavelength
EM waves) cannot. So we get a radio signal when
standing behind a building, but we can't see
around the building. In the same way, long
wavelength sounds (deep sounds) will bend more
than short wavelength sounds (high-pitched
sounds). This is why it can sometimes be harder
to figure out where a deep bass sound is coming
from than where a high pitched sound is coming
from. So that's something you may want to think
about -- perhaps use a range of sound frequencies
to see if the mice are helped by some but not
others; or at least try to use a somewhat
high-pitched sound to make sure the mice can
actually find it.
Second, when you're running
the mice in the mazes, I would assume that you'll
do some control runs without the sound. When you
do these controls, you'll need to be sure that the
setup is exactly the same, just without the sound.
So all the same speakers and whatnot should be in
place, just not producing sound. That way you'll
be able to test just for the effect of sound
without your results being confounded by the way
the presence of the speaker and the rest of your
apparatus affect the mouse's behavior (for
example, if they like the way the speakers smell
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