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ActualHCA: Hot topic across IBANGS & Measuring Behaviour’s 2016 Annual Conferences

Actual Analytics ‘Actual HCA’ system has been a hot topic recently at medical research conferences across the globe including IBANGS and Measuring Behaviour’s 2016 annual meeting…

International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society 2016

Last week marked the 18th annual Genes, Brain & Behaviour meeting from the International Behavioural and Neural

Genetics Society ( IBANGS ). The four-day conference, this year held within the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbour Maine, welcomed a variety of speakers from across to globe to share their most recent research findings and on-going behavioural and genetics projects.

Amongst the wide variety of invited speakers was Dr. Patrick Nolan from MRC Harwell who presented his research exploring the capabilities of true home-cage phenotyping. Dr. Nolan’s specific field of research delves into the genes underlying behaviours that are signature psychiatric diseases such as depression, bi-polar disorder and autism spectrum disorders.

His endeavour to record automated detailed behavioural parameters over time in an undisturbed cage environment encouraged him to explore whether true home-cage phenotyping was feasible. Actual HCA technology allowed him to collect findings which, when compared to conventional out of cage phenotyping, allow a far deeper understanding of mouse mutant phenotype. He concluded that using a subset of home-cage behaviours has the potential to enrich existing behaviour phenotype ontologies. International conferences of this nature allow researchers from all over the globe to gather together and share their findings and experience of new innovative technologies and best practices.

Measuring Behaviour 2016

Measuring Behaviour 2016 was held outside of the Netherlands for the first time in its history. This year, Dublin played host to a broad spectrum of international researchers spanning behavioural sciences. A wide variety of thought provoking cases and research findings were presented along with interesting posters. With far too many to mention them all, we would like to share with you just a few of our highlights.

To kick things off, Josh Neunuebel presented an extremely interesting study on measuring vocal communication in rodents. He highlighted the technological developments within this field which have uncovered the remarkable degree to which rodents use ultrasonic to communicate. Josh Neuneubel presented an innovate system which has the capacity to pinpoint exactly which mouse was making noise in a cage with multiple mice freely moving around.

Most relevant to Actual Analytics was the session on ‘Analysis of Automatically Measured Behaviours of Humans and Animals’. This session explained the progress in tracking and recognising behavioural patterns in a wide range of datasets spanning from care management in the elderly to our own presentation on measuring individual behaviours in group housed animals. In an exciting development, Evan Goulding (North-western) presented work on the analysis of activity patterns in genetic strains of mice showing that the patterns can be clustered together and that they closely follow the genetic lineage of animals. The patterns he presented can also be seen in strains analysed with the Actual HCA system. We presented our on-going work with MRC Harwell which involves automatically recognizing and measuring a range of behavioural phenotypes in mouse models.

Finally, one of the last sessions of the conference ‘The 9-5 Rodent: Time for a Change’ provided great insight into the changing nature of animal experimentation. All the presenters systematically challenged our normal assumptions about how animal experiments should be done and how environmental conditions have profound and often unpredictable effects on the data quality, data reproducibility and on animal welfare. Several presenters including Gernot Reidel (Aberdeen) and Oliver Stiedl (Amsterdam) presented the challenges involved in comparing results across laboratories and methods to finely standardise tasks to make data more robust. Stuart Peirson (Oxford) presented a summary of how lighting affects tests in ways that challenge many common procedures such as which wavelengths of light our rodents can see, what effects different colours have on mouse behaviour and what effects light levels have on stress levels and on individual performance. Our collaborator Dr. Patrick Nolan (MRC Harwell) also presented ground-breaking work showing that measuring phenotypes in the home cage reveals progressive disease-relevant phenotypes earlier than using conventional out-of-cage phenotyping. He presented pioneering work on social effects of mixing genotypes in the same cage using Actual HCA. He remarked that ‘automated home cage analysis systems offer the potential to remove variability, bias and artefacts induced by removing animals from their social groups for behavioural testing. We have determined that the automated assessment of unforced behaviour in the home cage over long time intervals (Actual HCA) can be used to accurately discriminate differences in distinct behavioural parameters in mice’.


To find out more Actual HCA click here or take a look at our whitepaper library.