See in JoVE how nest building can indicate the well-being of lab mice


See in JoVE how nest building can indicate the well-being of lab mice
J. Vis. Exp. (82) e51012, doi:10.3791/51012 (2013)

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

Science Show-and-tell


Back in 2006, Moshe Pritsker thought to use video technology to capture and transmit the intricacies of life science research, facilitating both the understanding and reproduction of experiments and techniques. This idea of “letting scientists look over each other’s shoulders” led to the launch of JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which is peer reviewed and PubMed-indexed. As a scientific journal, it has an editorial board and hierarchical structure, and ensures consistent quality of its video content by maintaining a network of professional videographers spread across major science centres. Scientists from leading institutions participate by submitting video articles that visualize their experiments.

As science advances, processes and tools also become more complex. Procedures and techniques such as growing stem cells are tremendously complicated and difficult to accurately follow with just a set of written instructions, and visiting labs in person can be a very expensive alternative beyond the resources of many researchers. This challenge of poor experiment reproducibility is what JoVE tries to address, claiming that traditional written and static picture-based print journals are no longer sufficient to accurately convey the intricacies of modern research. Translating findings from the bench to clinical therapies rely on the rapid transfer of knowledge within the research community.

This month’s issue features an article by Connors et al of Massachusetts Eye & Ear and Harvard Medical School, who have developed an audio-based virtual environment simulator that uses audio cues and a video game context to build cognitive maps of three-dimensional spaces and help blind people improve their navigation skills. Other videos include a new non-invasive method being developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for measuring brain metabolism in new-born babies, and a demonstration of how a biopolymer gel derived from polysaccharides found in brown algae can help patients with heart failure.

There are also other companies operating in the scientific video space, but what they offer is a looser user-generated environment. One of the most successful of those is SciVee, which is backed by the Public Library of Science and features videos that sit alongside traditional journal papers.

So is this the new frontier? Are we actually looking at a situation where most researchers will feel comfortable communicating with their peers using video? Has the scientific community truly given its blessing to such new approaches to science communication? We’d love to hear your thoughts.