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Mice squeak and slugs have feelings

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A mouse that squeaks is being heralded as a major breakthrough for sufferers of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

The touch-sensitive device, created by two university researchers at Loughborough University, looks like any ordinary computer mouse. However, it is equipped with extra electronics to make it a squeak like a real rodent if pressed too hard.

"Studies have shown that the more anxious you are – you know, when you're very stressed or angry – the harder you are likely to press the mouse," Michael Macaulay, one of the brains behind the idea, told the BBC.

"Changing a user's mouse-clicking habit would go a step forward to reducing the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury."

The repetitive actions used to operate a keyboard or mouse can cause damage to body tissues such as tendons, nerves and muscles in the upper half of the body, and lead to RSI. The hands, wrists and arms are mainly affected, but it can also spread to the shoulders and neck.

"If you wiggled a piece of electrical wire up and down, over and over again, for seven hours a day, five days a week, it starts to fray and break," said Bunny Martin, an RSI consultant.

"The difference between a computer and a human being is that we're not robots and I can't unscrew your arm and re-wire your wiring."

The makers of the squeaking mouse are now looking for finance to mass-produce their product and develop the accompanying software.

In news from the animal kingdom, it appears that creepy crawlies may feel pain the same way humans do. All those times you crunched a cockroach under your boot, or pulled the wings off flies as a kid was the equivalent of doing the same thing to a kitten or bird, apparently.

That's according to a survey mentioned in today's Telegraph, which claims that invertebrates have feelings too. "Cockroaches have the capacity to suffer," it cries.

"If a chimp pulls its hand away after an electric shock, we say she presumably must have felt an analogous subjective experience to what we call pain. But cockroaches, slugs and snails – which are not protected by legislation – also reacted in the same way," said Dr Stephen Wickens, of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare charity.

Confirming the Brits' reputation of being a nation of animal-lovers, the Dr added: "And if they do feel pain, isn't that a welfare issue?"

What next? The Royal Society for the Protection of Slugs (RSPS)? ®

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