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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

Refining food and fluid control in macaques

Guidelines on the use of food and fluid control in behavioural neuroscience experiments with macaque monkeys [1] which have refined the procedures used in laboratories nationally and internationally.

Key recommendations include:

  • Not all behavioural neuroscience experiments with macaques require the use of food or fluid control. Wherever possible, alternative means of motivation with less risk to animal welfare should be used.
  • Where food or fluid control is used, the protocol should be tailored to the individual monkey, including identifying the animal’s preferred food or fluid rewards. Individual baseline daily food and/or fluid intake should be established (and periodically re-established) for each monkey.
  • Generally, stable performance without weight loss can be achieved by allowing the monkey to obtain its entire daily food/fluid requirement but with controlled or scheduled access to food/fluid – rather than restricting or reducing the amount of daily food/fluid provided.
  • Introduce (and remove) food/fluid control gradually (over days to weeks) so that the monkey has time to recognise and anticipate the limited availability of food/fluid and adapt its patterns of intake to maintain health.
  • If the monkey fails to achieve its daily requirement in the experimental session, a supplement should be given afterwards. Supplements should be the maximum amount consistent with reliable performance and should be regularly reviewed.
  • To ensure adequate intake, monitor daily body weight and perform a daily health check via a scheme agreed with the veterinarian and animal welfare officer. Stability of body weight (fully-grown monkeys) or body weight gain (young monkeys) is a key observation.

Read more about the project: Refining food and fluid control in behavioural neuroscience with macaques, including the membership of the expert working group.



  1. Prescott MJ et al. (2010). Refinement of the use of food and fluid control as motivational tools for macaques used in behavioural neuroscience research: Report of a working group of the NC3Rs. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 193: 167-188 doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.09.003
  2. Prescott MJ et al. (2012). Response to Westlund's commentary: 'Can conditioned reinforcers and variable-ratio schedules make food- and fluid control redundant?' Journal of Neuroscience Methods 204: 206-209 doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2011.08.038