Behavioral effects of ventilated micro-environment housing in three inbred mouse strains

Yann S Mineur, Wim E Crusio
Physiology & Behavior 2009 June 22, 97 (3): 334-40
Animal facilities aim to combine animal welfare with cost-efficiency and limited care staff requirements, and individually ventilated cage (IVC) systems were developed towards these goals. While IVC have great sanitary advantages both for the animals but also for the care staff, these systems involve potentially deleterious features such as high levels of air renewal, noise, and subtle vibrations of the racks because of the air filtering system used, but also reduce the frequency of stressful cage changes. It is unknown in how far these conditions may influence the animals' behavior. This issue becomes critical as many facilities are switching to IVC systems, possibly complicating replication of data or biasing ongoing studies. We investigated the effects of IVC housing in mice on different behaviors including anxiety, exploration, and learning in males and females of three common and phenotypically distant strains. Results demonstrate robust effects of IVC in multiple behavioral tests with the direction of the effect strongly dependent on strain and sex. These data should serve to alert researchers that a switch to IVC housing during the course of an experiment has the potential to bias results in a serious manner. In addition, behavioral baseline data will have to be re-established once the switch has been completed.

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