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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

2013 Animal Welfare Enhancement Awards

2013 Grant Recipents


Using in-cage ultrasonic vocalizations to assess the well-being of laboratory rats and assessing the effectiveness of playful handling in reducing blood collection associated stress in laboratory rats

Sylvie Cloutier, PhD
Center for the Study of Animal Well-Being
Washington State University

Housing conditions, handling, and procedures such as blood collection can be stressful, and thus impact laboratory rat welfare. Since animal welfare is defined as the physical and psychological state of non-human animals, its assessment should include affective measurements. In rats, changes in positive and negative affective states can be easily assessed by quantifying the production of ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Rat 22-kHz USVs have been associated with anticipation of aversive situations, and inform about the rat’s anxiety and negative state whereas the 50-kHz USVs have been validated as indicators of positive affective states. The goals of this research are to assess the effects of: (1) home cage environments differing in their complexity, and (2) exposure to playful handling immediately prior to blood collection on the affective state and thus, welfare of rats. Rat vocalizations, behaviors and physiological measures will be compared to determine if animals provided with an environment that allows them to express their five important groups of natural behaviors (social interaction; rest/hiding; locomotion including climbing, exploring and playing; chewing/gnawing; manipulating, carrying and hoarding food and objects) are in a more positive affective states than rats kept in less complex environments. These measurements will also be used to determine if rats exposed to playful handling immediately prior to being restrained for blood collection will show more positive affective state and less fear of humans than rats exposed only to restraint. This study will improve our understanding of the impact of cage environment and procedures on laboratory rat welfare.


Effects of environmental enrichment on anxiety and place preference in adult zebrafish

Chereen Collymore, DMV
Laboratory Animal Medicine
Rockefeller University

Currently, the standard of housing for zebrafish is bare tanks with fish maintained in groups of conspecifics. ln this study, we aim to determine if the presence of environmental enrichment will alter anxiety-like behavior in adult zebrafish. We hypothesize that zebrafish exposed to environmental enrichment will display fewer anxiety-like behaviors than conspecifics housed in standard conditions. Adult zebrafish will be housed in groups with and without enrichment, as well as individually with and without enrichment. We will utilize the novel tank/open tank diving test, the light/dark preference test, the in-tank place preference and latency to feed test as well as the novel tank place preference test to evaluate the behaviors displayed by the fish. The findings from this study may provide evidence that environmental enrichment can be used to help reduce anxiety-like behaviors in laboratory reared zebrafish.


Development of a maze test to assess emotional affinity in mice and rats

Debrah Hickman, DMV, MS, DACLAM
Laboratory Animal Resource Center
Indiana University

Happy and healthy animals are necessary to ensure that the results of studies using animal models are as reliable as possible. Evaluating health and preventing pathogen exposure is well characterized, but the effect of our husbandry practices on animal well-being is less understood. Behavioral tests that measure emotional affinity optimism' or 'pessimism') allow us to change something in the animal’s environment and 'ask' them what they think of this change. Although these tests have been developed for multiple agricultural and laboratory animal species, the behavioral tests are labor intensive and require that the animal learn a discrimination task. If the animal fails to learn the task, they are removed from the study, potentially biasing the results of the study. This study will evaluate an alternative maze test of emotional affinity for rats and mice. This test was first used to measure the emotional affinity of lambs. In this test, the latency time to complete a brightly lit maze and obtain shelter, including time spent in two 'dead ends,' is used as a measure of emotional affinity. The results of this study will allow us to provide the scientific community with a novel means to assess the emotional affinity of rats and mice that will require less labor, improve throughput, and remove potential individual performance bias from studies of well-being in these species.


Can the mouse grimace scale be applied to mouse pups?

Joelle Ingrao, DMV
Department of Pathobiology
University of Guelph

In Canada alone, approximately 1.5 million mice are used every year for biomedical research. Little to no data exists for commonly used analgesics, and dose ranges and methods of administration are deduced from other species. Administration of carprofen through the drinking water is an attractive method of administration as it does not require the time, training, or skill that is required with other routes of administration. This method would also greatly diminish handling-associated stress, which has been shown to occur with other methods of administration. In addition, there are currently no proven methods by which to assess pain in pre-weaned mice, which makes providing appropriate pain-management difficult if not impossible. Our study has two aims: the first is to assess the pain-reducing effects of carprofen given through the drinking water to pre-weaned mice, and the second is to evaluate the Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS) in pre-weaned mice. Mice will be recorded up to 24hrs post-procedure (ear notching) and recordings analyzed using the MGS and behaviour scoring. Should administration of carprofen through drinking water prove to be successful, this may be used as a scientifically proven method to reduce pain in laboratory mice. Proof that the MGS could be used in pre-weaned mice could provide us with a practical method by which to identify pain, allowing researchers to minimize pain and suffering in these animals wherever possible.


The influence of emotion on judgment and decision making in rhesus monkeys with self-injurious behavior

Pete Otovic, MA, DMV
Laboratory Animal Medicine
Johns Hopkins University

The welfare of animals in a laboratory setting is an issue of increasing importance. In order to improve the well-being of these animals, we first need to develop reliable methods to assess it. An ideal way to study welfare is to examine an animal’s underlying emotional or affective state. In humans we study emotions by combining information obtained from physiological recording devices, such as heart rate, with that from directly asking the subjects how they feel. It is this latter part that is difficult to do with animals since they cannot speak with us like humans can. Although we cannot directly study animal emotions, we can evaluate other phenomena that are directly impacted by emotions. For example, cognitive functioning in humans is profoundly affected by emotional state. Human beings that are depressed or anxious are more likely to make pessimistic judgments than healthy controls. Thus, we surmise that animals with similar emotional disturbances would also be more likely to make cynical judgments. Self-injurious behavior is a condition found in as many as 20% of rhesus monkeys within a population. It is characterized by repeated and progressive self-inflicted wounding and is thought to be mediated by anxiety. Studying the judgments that rhesus monkeys with self-injurious behavior make and comparing them to behaviorally normal monkeys will help us validate the approach of using cognitive performance to assess emotion and well-being as well as help us understand the nature and treatment of self-injurious behavior.

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