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Mice Don't Like New Places, and They Do Like Other Mice

As part of our recent webinar with Inside Scientific, Dr Sarah Wells of MRC Harwell was kind enough to discuss the needs of mice when it comes to phenotyping, drug testing, and exploring treatment options for neurobehavioural conditions. In this blog post, we’ll go over some of her points and discuss the importance of rodent welfare when it comes to obtaining good data.

Assessing behaviour makes up a fundamental part of researching neurobehavioural disease in mice, as it is not possible to communicate with the rodents in order to assess their wellbeing. As a result, mouse welfare is of paramount importance. Researchers have to be able to identify what is “normal” for the mice being studied before they can identify the behaviours that indicate that neurological disease has begun to set in. For example, it is normal for mice to climb and dig within their cage, so this behaviour should be observed in the early stages. Mice that are showing signs of neurological disease will be hyperactive, isolated from other mice, and have disrupted sleep.

This is where the issue comes in with standard monitoring: mice don’t like new places. Being in an unfamiliar environment will cause them to behave erratically, and if they are alone it is impossible to tell if they are socially isolated. They like familiar places and other mice, and without those things it becomes harder to establish a baseline of normal behaviour from which to work.

Once you start considering this issue, another serious problem with standard monitoring becomes apparent. Labs tend to operate during daylight hours, whereas mice are most active at night. Observing their behaviour during the day becomes difficult, as the mice want to sleep.


You can see from the chart that mice have very clear circadian rhythms, and 24-hour monitoring is the only way to ensure they are observed naturally, with minimal disruption to the way they would ordinarily behave. Being able to watch recordings of how mice behave at night in a familiar, social environment makes it far easier to identify behaviours that can indicate neurobehavioural conditions or drug reactions.

In summary, mice like being in familiar places, they like being around other mice, and they like to sleep all day and run around all night. They don’t like strange environments or solitude. ActualHCA makes it easy to incorporate these needs into observation and experimental design, allowing researchers to obtain richer, more accurate data than ever before.

If you’d like to know more about the ActualHCA system, visit our product page. To view the webinar or take a look at some slides, click here.