, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 46–66 | Cite as

Model homes for model organisms: Intersections of animal welfare and behavioral neuroscience around the environment of the laboratory mouse

  • Nicole Nelson
Original Article


This article investigates the environment of the laboratory animal as a site where animal welfare and behavioral neuroscience intersect, creating opportunities for cross-pollinations between the concepts and practices of each field. Laboratory animal welfare is organized around a distinction between the care of animals and their use in experiments, and while best practices for animal handling and the management of animal housing may appear to fall firmly within the ambit of animal care, behavioral researchers’ own histories of work on ‘experimenter effects’ and ‘enriched environments’ complicate this distinction. Using historical and ethnographic data from animal behavioral neuroscience laboratories, this article examines how welfare professionals have drawn on behavioral science as a source of new data and techniques, and how researchers in turn employ concepts from animal welfare in their scientific thinking. This investigation provides insight into how changes in animal welfare oversight are changing scientific practice, but it also reveals one reason why taking seriously the idea of the animal as a situated, interactive being in laboratory practice remains difficult. Professional conflicts over the management of the animal’s environment and rhetorical troubles created by the association of gene-environment interaction research with welfare agendas complicate both the management and meaning of interaction in the animal behavioral neuroscience laboratory.


animal welfare/care gene–environment interaction experimenter effects environmental enrichment behavioral neuroscience laboratory studies 



Thanks to Kasia Tolwinski, Angie Boyce and Peter Dear for reading and commenting on this article, to Harald Kliems for his editorial assistance; and to Stephen Casper for his inspiring title suggestion. I also benefitted from feedback on early versions of this article presented at the Society for the Social Studies of Science; the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology; and the History of Science Society. Research for this article was funded by a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (Award No. SES 0749635) and a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© The London School of Economics and Political Science 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Nelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of the History of ScienceUniversity of Wisconsin – MadisonMadisonUSA

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