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NC3Rs: National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research
Office-led project

Rodent high-yield behavioural experiments

At a glance

In progress
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  • Refinement
A black mouse in a plastic cage, standing on paper nesting material.


We have convened an expert working group to refine behavioural training of rodents for high-yield sensory discrimination tasks. This work was instigated at the request of academics from the sensory neuroscience research community.

The field of sensory neuroscience is changing with the advent of increasingly sophisticated behavioural equipment which makes it possible to run hundreds of behavioural trials within a single session (high-yield behavioural tasks). By conducting such densely-packed sessions, the data yield and robustness of these studies is increased. This experimental approach can be used to study the neural activity underlying sensory behaviours in response to odours, auditory stimuli, visual stimuli and tactile cues.

The increasing use of rodents in high-yield behavioural tasks has highlighted possible welfare concerns. For example, surgery is required to implant head-fixation devices to ensure precise control of head movements for stable neural recordings and, in most of these studies, animals are motivated to participate in behavioural tasks by food or fluid restriction. While these methods are used commonly in the field, there is little consensus on how they are best performed and whether alternatives could be used in certain circumstances. Establishing best practice for these experiments represents a refinement opportunity in this ever-growing field.

The working group includes academics, industry scientists, a veterinarian and animal care staff with experience in sensory and behavioural neuroscience. The group will review the existing literature as well as the current practices of the sensory neuroscience research community to define best practice. This will help to identify opportunities to apply the 3Rs, particularly refinements, to these high-yield sensory discrimination tasks. These group’s recommendations will be published in a peer-reviewed paper and promoted with the research community.

Working group members

Name Institution
Dr Ian Ragan (Chair) Independent
Dr Chris Barkus NC3Rs
Dr Caroline Bergmann University of Nottingham
Dr Tiago Branco University College London
Prof Matteo Carandini University College London
Dr Paul Chadderton University of Bristol
Dr Gregorio Galiñanes University of Geneva
Dr Gary Gilmour COMPASS Pathways
Prof Daniel Huber University of Geneva
Dr John Huxter Transpharmation
Dr Adil Khan King’s College London
Prof Andrew King University of Oxford
Prof Miguel Maravall University of Sussex
Mrs Tina O’Mahoney University College London
Dr Mark Prescott NC3Rs
Prof Emma Robinson University of Bristol
Prof Andreas Schaefer Francis Crick Institute and University College London
Prof Simon Schultz Imperial College London
Prof Frank Sengpiel Cardiff University