Mouse Behavioral Testing

Mouse Behavioral Testing

How to Use Mice in Behavioral Neuroscience

1st Edition - October 22, 2010

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  • Author: Douglas Wahlsten
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123756749
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123756756

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Mouse Behavioral Testing: How to Use Mice in Behavioral Neuroscience provides detailed explanations of how to conduct an experiment on mouse behavior from the initial planning of the research design through every step of the process until the data analysis phase. The book discusses the practical matters that need to be considered carefully when working with any species of animal, such as how many animals need to be tested. It describes the tests and techniques devised specifically for work with mice. Every step of the research process is illustrated with real situations encountered in previous studies. All examples are based on real experiments, and extensive details of several published experiments are provided. The essential features of a behavioral test protocol are outlined, and several complete protocols are provided. Methods to balance the order of tests and determine throughput are described, then a completely balanced order of tests in a complex experiment is presented. The book will be useful for those already familiar with the general principles of research but are new to the realm of behavioral testing of live mice. It will also serve as a text for a formal course, most likely at the graduate level.

Key Features

  • A guide to running a behavioral testing lab, including the many aspects of mouse research beyond the confines of the specific test
  • Diagrams and photographs are shown for many kinds of apparatus and test situations with sufficient details such as dimensions to enable building of replicas
  • Provides step-by-step instructions on planning and executing behavioral experiments in order to run them successfully


Experienced behavioral researchers working with mice, as well as undergraduate and graduate students and postdoc investigators

Table of Contents

  • Preface


    Chapter 1 Introduction to the Research Process

    The Research Process: Scientific Aspects

    Adapting the approach to the stage of an investigation

    Mice, mice, and more mice

    Measuring instruments: Tests

    The formal research design

    Sample size

    Ethics approval


    Obtaining subjects

    The test day

    Prelude to data analysis

    Data analysis

    Publishing results

    The Institutional Context of Research




    Chapter 2 Mice

    Mice Versus Rats

    Models of Human Functions

    Origins of Standard Mouse Strains

    Kinds of Breeding Schemes

    Outbred animals

    Closed colony

    Inbred strains

    F1 hybrids

    Selectively bred lines

    The Process of Close Inbreeding

    Inbred Strains for Research

    Special Genotypes Derived from Inbred Strains

    Coisogenic strains

    Congenic strains

    Consomic strains

    Conplastic strains

    Recombinant inbred strains

    Designer Mice: Transgenic Methods and Targeted Mutations

    Chapter 3 Tests of Mouse Behavior

    Popularity of Tests

    Commercial Devices


    Open field

    Nose poke hole board

    Symmetrical Y maze

    Home cage activity


    Lightdark box

    Elevated plus maze

    Elevated zero and square mazes

    Vogel conflict test

    Geller conflict test

    Motor Function

    Ataxia observation

    Grip strength

    Balance beam

    Grid test


    Running wheel



    Operant learning


    Spatial memory

    Electric shock

    Other Tests

    Chapter 4 Designs

    One Group

    Two Groups

    Matched Pairs

    Repeated Measures

    Single-Factor Study With More Than Two Groups (One-Way Design)

    Two-Factor Studies

    Multi-Factor Studies

    Specialized Designs

    Reciprocal hybrid crosses

    Manipulations of the maternal environment

    Transgenerational influences

    Selective breeding with control for environmental influences


    Fixed and random effects

    Nested factors

    Litter as unit

    Consulting experts


    One- and two-factor studies

    Three- and higher factor studies

    Breeding list

    Chapter 5 Sample Size

    Utilities to do the Calculations

    Population and Sample

    Two kinds of populations

    Specifying an entire population

    Random choice of a sample

    Comparing two groups

    Comparing several groups

    Size of an Effect

    What is an effect?

    Index of effect size

    Effect size for a study with two groups

    Effect size for more than two groups

    Finding effect size from published data

    Significance of an Effect

    False positives happen

    The more tests, the higher the risk of a false positive

    Power of a Test

    Finding the Correct Sample Size

    Two independent groups

    2 2 design, 4 groups

    J groups, omnibus test

    J groups, linear contrast

    Two-way factorial design

    Designs with more than two factors

    Chapter 6 Ethics Approval

    Good Ethics and Good Science

    The Era Before Regulation

    The Era of Regulated Research With Animals

    Ethical Status of Mice and Rats

    The Fundamental Ethical Principle of Animal Research

    The 3Rs




    Case Studies

    Death as an end point

    Food deprivation

    Categories of Invasiveness and Severity

    Categories for Behavioral Tests Used with Mice

    The Future

    Chapter 7 Logistics

    The Total Experiment

    One-factor design

    Two-, three- and four-factor designs

    The Principle of Balancing and Randomization

    The Total Sample Divided into Smaller Units


    Partitioning the Work Day

    The Balancing Act


    Latin square

    Randomization to the Rescue

    Shipments, Cages, Tail Marks, and Id Numbers

    Cages in the Colony Room

    The Data Sheet

    Final Consultation

    Other Examples

    More Intricate Designs

    Chapter 8 Getting Ready for Testing

    Ordering Mice



    Marking for Individual Identification


    Group versus individual housing

    Cage enrichment

    Lightdark cycle

    Going to School: Test Day

    Chapter 9 Prelude to Data Analysis

    Know Your Object

    Contents of One Row of Data

    The Id Code

    Order of Variables Across a Row

    Naming Variables

    The Value of Using the Right Values

    The Plague Called Missing Data

    Importing the Spreadsheet into the Statistical Program

    Checking for Errors in the Data

    The Crucial Distinction Between Errors and Exceptions

    Looking at Results

    Statistical Data Analysis as a Final Step in the Process

    Chapter 10 Domains and Test Batteries

    Types of Observations

    Whole behavior versus criterion response

    Free expression versus highly constrained actions

    Microscopic analysis versus the whole picture

    Short duration versus full day observation

    The Ethological Method

    Domains and Subdomains

    Complexity of Domains

    Test Batteries

    Every test changes the mouse

    Advantages of using different mice for different tests

    Efficiency and economy of numbers comes at a price

    Current wisdom about test batteries

    Testing effects of batteries

    Effect size and importance of test order effects

    One solution: Standard test orders

    How stressful are tests?

    Chapter 11 Motivating Mice

    Hunger and Food Deprivation

    Appetite without deprivation


    Methods of food deprivation

    A refined method for daily deprivation

    Degree of hunger and eating

    Revised eating test

    Electric Shock

    Basic features of a shock source

    Variables that influence intensity

    Determining the correct level of shock

    Threshold of sensation

    Threshold of overt reaction

    Kinds of responses and task requirements

    Water Escape



    Number of trials



    Air Puff Aversion

    Parameters of air puffs

    Determining optimal air flow rate

    Avoidance of air puffs

    Motivation and Learning

    Chapter 12 Qualities of Behavioral Tests

    Resolution, Accuracy, and Precision





    Chapter 13 Task Refinement and Standardization

    Flawed Tests and Missteps in the Research Process

    The lab cat

    Mouse shuttle avoidance

    Bar press avoidance

    Task Complexity

    The relatively simple open field

    The submerged platform water escape task

    Do task parameters matter?

    Probe trial performance

    Escape latencies and rate of learning

    Task Refinement

    The accelerating rotarod

    The submerged platform water escape task

    Prospects for refining other tests

    Test Standardization

    Standardizing Lab Environment

    Chapter 14 Video Tracking

    Basic Features

    Camera and lens

    Spectral sensitivity and filters

    Focus of the lens

    Hardware Modifications for Video Tracking

    Solid floors for uniform fields of view

    Paint in the water tank

    Eliminating shadows and blind spots

    The experimenters hand

    Doubts about the Accuracy of Video Tracking

    Tracking in Edmonton and Portland

    VideoScan versus ANY-maze

    Accuracy and Precision from a Mechanical Device

    The Solution: Ir Backlighting

    The True Path Length

    Chapter 15 The Laboratory Environment

    Two Sources of Environmental Variance in Test Scores

    Environmental Effects on Test Scores: Early Studies

    Interactions with Lab Environment: Recent Studies

    Complexity of the Lab Environment

    Standardizing the Lab Environment

    Heterogenization of the Lab Environment

    Strategies for Standardizing the Lab Environment


    Reference List


Product details

  • No. of pages: 304
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2010
  • Published: October 22, 2010
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123756749
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123756756

About the Author

Douglas Wahlsten

Dr. Wahlsten received his Ph.D. degree in psychology from the University of California Irvine and completed his postdoctoral work in behavior genetics at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado. He then established research laboratories at the University of Waterloo, the University of Alberta, and the University of North Carolina. The laboratory work involved genetic and developmental analysis of mouse brain defects and methods of behavioral testing. He also acquired expertise in statistical data analysis and theoretical issues central to the field. He was a co-founder of the very successful journal Genes, Brain and Behavior, and was given the Distinguished Scientist award by the International Behavioral and Neural Genetics Society. Throughout his career, he has taught behavioral and neural genetics to undergraduate and graduate students.

Affiliations and Expertise

Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Canada

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