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Refinement of IntelliCage protocols for complex cognitive tasks through replacement of drinking restrictions by incentive-disincentive paradigms


Ma, Xueqian; Schildknecht, Beatrice; Steiner, Adrian C; Amrein, Irmgard; Nigri, Martina; Bramati, Giulia; Wolfer, David P (2023). Refinement of IntelliCage protocols for complex cognitive tasks through replacement of drinking restrictions by incentive-disincentive paradigms. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 17:1232546.

Abstract

The IntelliCage allows automated testing of cognitive abilities of mice in a social home cage environment without handling by human experimenters. Restricted water access in combination with protocols in which only correct responses give access to water is a reliable learning motivator for hippocampus-dependent tasks assessing spatial memory and executive function. However, water restriction may negatively impact on animal welfare, especially in poor learners. To better comply with the 3R principles, we previously tested protocols in which water was freely available but additional access to sweetened water could be obtained by learning a task rule. While this purely appetitive motivation worked for simple tasks, too many mice lost interest in the sweet reward during more difficult hippocampus-dependent tasks. In the present study, we tested a battery of increasingly difficult spatial tasks in which water was still available without learning the task rule, but rendered less attractive either by adding bitter tasting quinine or by increasing the amount of work to obtain it. As in previous protocols, learning of the task rule provided access to water sweetened with saccharin. The two approaches of dual motivation were tested in two cohorts of female C57BL/6 N mice. Compared to purely appetitive motivation, both novel protocols strongly improved task engagement and increased task performance. Importantly, neither of the added disincentives had an adverse impact on liquid consumption, health status or body weight of the animals. Our results show that it is possible to refine test protocols in the IntelliCage so that they challenge cognitive functions without restricting access to water.

Abstract

The IntelliCage allows automated testing of cognitive abilities of mice in a social home cage environment without handling by human experimenters. Restricted water access in combination with protocols in which only correct responses give access to water is a reliable learning motivator for hippocampus-dependent tasks assessing spatial memory and executive function. However, water restriction may negatively impact on animal welfare, especially in poor learners. To better comply with the 3R principles, we previously tested protocols in which water was freely available but additional access to sweetened water could be obtained by learning a task rule. While this purely appetitive motivation worked for simple tasks, too many mice lost interest in the sweet reward during more difficult hippocampus-dependent tasks. In the present study, we tested a battery of increasingly difficult spatial tasks in which water was still available without learning the task rule, but rendered less attractive either by adding bitter tasting quinine or by increasing the amount of work to obtain it. As in previous protocols, learning of the task rule provided access to water sweetened with saccharin. The two approaches of dual motivation were tested in two cohorts of female C57BL/6 N mice. Compared to purely appetitive motivation, both novel protocols strongly improved task engagement and increased task performance. Importantly, neither of the added disincentives had an adverse impact on liquid consumption, health status or body weight of the animals. Our results show that it is possible to refine test protocols in the IntelliCage so that they challenge cognitive functions without restricting access to water.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Life Sciences > Behavioral Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:16 November 2023
Deposited On:08 Dec 2023 13:59
Last Modified:30 Apr 2024 01:44
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5153
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2023.1232546
PubMed ID:38033480
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)