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Mouse Behavioral Testing - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123756749, 9780123756756

Mouse Behavioral Testing

1st Edition

How to Use Mice in Behavioral Neuroscience

Author: Douglas Wahlsten
Hardcover ISBN: 9780123756749
eBook ISBN: 9780123756756
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 22nd October 2010
Page Count: 304
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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



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



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© Academic Press 2010
22nd October 2010
Academic Press
Hardcover ISBN:
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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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