We’re pleased to have another guest post by the team at JoVE (The Journal of Visualized Experiments). This month’s featured article explores how the way that lab mice build their nests can provide a useful indication of their welfare. The video format is a great way to convey all the subtle behavioural nuances that might be lost in the traditional print-only journal format and again illustrates the great potential of using multimedia content in academic research. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
By Kira M. Henderson, Ph.D.
Deputy Director of Journal Development Editor, JoVE
The JoVE video article, “Nest Building as an Indicator of Health and Welfare in Laboratory Mice,” offers an effective and simple solution for monitoring animal welfare of laboratory mice concurently with experimentation. Brianna N. Gaskill et al. document the two-part process of scoring nesting habits as representation of mouse behavior and overall health and wellbeing. The nesting and scoring process is fairly simple but includes numerous variables and subtle behavioral analysis. The method is presented with an additional layer of detail in a dynamic JoVE video article as opposed to a static text article.
Identifying pain is the first step in mitigating discomfort and addressing disease or injury. The field of pain management is highly coupled with pain identification through behavioral cues in laboratory animals, as animals cannot verbally describe when or where they have pain. Video articles allow researchers to precisely capture subtle differences in animal behavior as related to changes in wellbeing, which may be lost in standard methodology texts.
Advantages of the presented method over other pain and health monitoring techniques include the ease of use and ability to analyze results even if mice are inactive. The first part of the test examines and scores nest building according to the quality and complexity of the prepared nest. Considered variables include extent of material manipulation, size and shape of nest as well as height and depth of the overall nest dome. The second part of the test, “time to integrate to nest” or TINT, occurs after the mice complete their initial nest. The TINT test requires the addition of a single piece of new material into the mouse’s cage to determine if the mouse is actively integrating material into their nest. A cage where the mouse utilizes the new material is considered TINT positive, whereas a mouse that disregards the new material is TINT negative.
Proper nest building can signify mouse health and stability. High nest building scores and TINT positive outcomes suggest normal or healthy mouse behavior, while low nest building scores and TINT negative could be a sign of disease or behavioral defects requiring veterinary attention. Sick or wounded mice could compromise the results of a research study as well as cause general discomfort for the animal.
This publication in JoVE provides other researchers with a clear and visual demonstration of how to test nest building behavior in lab mice as an indicator of animal health. JoVE is further exploring the field of pain monitoring in an upcoming Special Issue titled, “Chronic Pain Modeling and Analysis”. This Special Issue is currently accepting abstracts for consideration at www.jove.com/publish/special-issues.