Social communication in mice--are there optimal cage conditions?

Abstract : Social communication is heavily affected in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders. Accordingly, mouse models designed to study the mechanisms leading to these disorders are tested for this phenotypic trait. Test conditions vary between different models, and the effect of these test conditions on the quantity and quality of social interactions and ultrasonic communication is unknown. The present study examines to which extent the habituation time to the test cage as well as the shape/size of the cage influence social communication in freely interacting mice. We tested 8 pairs of male mice in free dyadic social interactions, with two habituation times (20 min and 30 min) and three cage formats (rectangle, round, square). We tested the effect of these conditions on the different types of social contacts, approach-escape sequences, follow behavior, and the time each animal spent in the vision field of the other one, as well as on the emission of ultrasonic vocalizations and their contexts of emission. We provide for the first time an integrated analysis of the social interaction behavior and ultrasonic vocalizations. Surprisingly, we did not highlight any significant effect of habituation time and cage shape/size on the behavioral events examined. There was only a slight increase of social interactions with the longer habituation time in the round cage. Remarkably, we also showed that vocalizations were emitted during specific behavioral sequences especially during close contact or approach behaviors. The present study provides a protocol reliably eliciting social contacts and ultrasonic vocalizations in adult male mice. This protocol is therefore well adapted for standardized investigation of social interactions in mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders.
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Allain-Thibeault Ferhat, Anne-Marie Le Sourd, Fabrice de Chaumont, Jean-Christophe Olivo-Marin, Thomas Bourgeron, et al.. Social communication in mice--are there optimal cage conditions?. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (3), pp.e0121802. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0121802⟩. ⟨pasteur-01470225⟩

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