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Handling method alters the hedonic value of reward in laboratory mice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jasmine ClarksonORCiD, Emeritus Professor Paul FlecknellORCiD, Dr Matthew Leach, Professor Candy Rowe



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Mice are the most widely used model species for drug discovery and scientific research. Consequently, it is important to refine laboratory procedures and practices to ensure high standards of welfare and scientific data quality. Recent studies have identified that the standard practice of handling laboratory mice by their tails increases behaviours indicative of anxiety, which can be overcome by handling mice using a tunnel. However, despite clear negative effects on mice’s behaviour, tunnel handling has yet to be widely implemented. In this study, we provide the first evidence that tail handling also reduces mice’s responses to reward. Anhedonia is a core symptom of clinical depression, and is measured in rodents by assessing how they consume a sucrose solution: depressed mice consume less sucrose and the size of their licking bouts when drinking (their ‘lick cluster sizes’) also tend to be smaller. We found that tail handled mice showed more anhedonic responses in both measures compared to tunnel handled mice, indicative of a decreased responsiveness to reward and potentially a more depressive-like state. Our findings have significant implications for the welfare of laboratory mice as well as the design and interpretation of scientific studies, particularly those investigating or involving reward.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clarkson JM, Dwyer DM, Flecknell PA, Leach MC, Rowe C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2018

Volume: 8

Issue: 1

Pages: 2448

Print publication date: 05/02/2018

Online publication date: 05/02/2018

Acceptance date: 23/01/2018

Date deposited: 05/02/2018

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-20716-3


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