Can Caging Lab Mice Alter Their Brain Function?

For decades now, scientists have used lab mice and rats in medical experiments because they best mimicked human responses and conditions. However, a breakthrough study now suggests that scientists may have to consider an alternative for future experiments. According to the research, types of cages can affect how a mouse’s brain works. Diego Restrepo, a professor of cell and developmental biology and the director of the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, said that mice have been used in laboratories under the assumption that they all behave the same way, but changes in the cages can also change brain activity, creating drastic differences in research results.

Mice have been used as the most common mammals for research geared towards developing concepts related to the human body as well as the mind. They have been used time and again to gain knowledge and prove theories on cancer, neuroscience, genetics and even psychology. Before a firm conclusion can be reached on any of these issues, several universities and researchers conduct similar experiments and compare results. According to Restrepo, comparisons made may not be consistent or correct. This is because, according to the research his team is conducting, brains of lab mice and rats are sensitive to environmental changes. Shifting a mouse from an openly-aired cage to a tight – fitting confinement can have great impact and cause change in the brain. Even the mice’ sense of smell changes. There are also behavioral changes, particularly in terms of aggression. Thus, two labs performing the same experiment may get two varied results which cannot be explained, and the culprit may be the cage each of the labs are using.