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An assessment of ambient noise and other environmental variables in a nonhuman primate housing facility

Abstract

Acoustic noise and other environmental variables represent potential confounds for animal research. Of relevance to auditory research, sustained high levels of ambient noise may modify hearing sensitivity and decrease well-being among laboratory animals. The present study was conducted to assess environmental conditions in an animal facility that houses nonhuman primates used for auditory research at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Sound levels, vibration, temperature, humidity and luminance were recorded using an environmental monitoring device placed inside of an empty cage in a macaque housing room. Recordings lasted 1 week each, at three different locations within the room. Vibration, temperature, humidity and luminance all varied within recommended levels for nonhuman primates, with one exception of low luminance levels in the bottom cage location. Sound levels at each cage location were characterized by a low baseline of 58–62 dB sound pressure level, with transient peaks up to 109 dB sound pressure level. Sound levels differed significantly across locations, but only by about 1.5 dB. The transient peaks beyond recommended sound levels reflected a very low noise dose, but exceeded startle-inducing levels, which could elicit stress responses. Based on these findings, ambient noise levels in the housing rooms in this primate facility are within acceptable levels and unlikely to contribute to hearing deficits in the nonhuman primates. Our results establish normative values for environmental conditions in a primate facility, can be used to inform best practices for nonhuman primate research and care, and form a baseline for future studies of aging and chronic noise exposure.

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Fig. 1: Sensory Sentinel device setup shown inside of a modular primate cage unit.
Fig. 2: Example of noise level (dB SPL) versus time (h) plot from March 22 2021, recorded at the top-middle location.
Fig. 3: Distribution of sound levels for each recording location.
Fig. 4: Distribution of sound levels across different recording locations.
Fig. 5: Spectra of sounds in the housing room.

Data availability

The datasets generated during the current study and that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Turner and the team at Turner Scientific for their loan of and assistance with the Sensory Sentinel device. We thank J. Parker and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Division of Animal Care husbandry staff for their accommodation of this study. This study was supported by NIH R01 DC 015988. J.A.B. was supported by NIH F32 DC 019817, and C.A.M. was supported by F31 DC 019823-01A1.

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A.R.M., J.A.B. and R.R. conceptualized and designed the study. A.R.M. and J.A.B. collected the data. A.R.M., J.A.B. and C.A.M. performed the analysis, with input from R.R. A.R.M. and J.A.B. wrote and edited the paper. C.A.M. and R.R. edited the paper.

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Correspondence to Ramnarayan Ramachandran.

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Lab Animal thanks Jan Langermans and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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McLeod, A.R., Burton, J.A., Mackey, C.A. et al. An assessment of ambient noise and other environmental variables in a nonhuman primate housing facility. Lab Anim 51, 219–226 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41684-022-01017-9

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