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Laboratory animal welfare

Cage enrichment and mouse behaviour

Test responses by laboratory mice are unperturbed by more entertaining housing.


Mice housed in standard cages show impaired brain development, abnormal repetitive behaviours (stereotypies) and an anxious behavioural profile, all of which can be lessened by making the cage environment more stimulating1,2,3. But concerns have been raised that enriched housing might disrupt standardization and so affect the precision and reproducibility of behavioural-test results (for example, see ref. 4). Here we show that environmental enrichment increases neither individual variability in behavioural tests nor the risk of obtaining conflicting data in replicate studies. Our findings indicate that the housing conditions of laboratory mice can be markedly improved without affecting the standardization of results.

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Figure 1: Mean (±s.e.m.) proportion of variance in representative measures of four behavioural tests, contributed by within-group variability and laboratory × strain interactions, in a multilaboratory study comparing female DBA/2, C57BL/6J and B6D2F1 mice housed under standard (orange) and enriched (blue) conditions.


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Correspondence to Hanno Würbel.

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Wolfer, D., Litvin, O., Morf, S. et al. Cage enrichment and mouse behaviour. Nature 432, 821–822 (2004).

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