Effects of Spatial and Cognitive Enrichment on Activity Pattern and Learning Performance in Three Strains of Mice in the IntelliMaze
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The IntelliMaze allows automated behavioral analysis of group housed laboratory mice while individually assigned protocols can be applied concomitantly for different operant conditioning components. Here we evaluate the effect of additional component availability (enrichment) on behavioral and cognitive performance of mice in the IntelliCage, by focusing on aspects that had previously been found to consistently differ between three strains, in four European laboratories. Enrichment decreased the activity level in the IntelliCages and enhanced spatial learning performance. However, it did not alter strain differences, except for activity during the initial experimental phase. Our results from non-enriched IntelliCages proved consistent between laboratories, but overall laboratory-consistency for data collected using different IntelliCage set-ups, did not hold for activity levels during the initial adaptation phase. Our results suggest that the multiple conditioning in spatially and cognitively enriched environments are feasible without affecting external validity for a specific task, provided animals have adapted to such an IntelliMaze.
KeywordsIntelliCage Environmental enrichment Multi-laboratory study External validity Automated operant conditioning Spatial learning Mus musculus
This study was conducted in partial fulfillment of European Sixth Framework Programme project no. 037965 “INTELLIMAZE” and with support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (to HPL). SK kindly acknowledges partial support by the NCCR “Neural Plasticity and Repair”. AC and AHM gratefully acknowledge the support of The Wallenberg Foundation and The Stohnes Foundation.
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