Inbred mice provide a valuable tool for research on behaviour because they are genetically
standardized and homogeneous within a strain. When investigators working in different
laboratories purchase C57BL/6J mice from the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine,
USA, for example, they all study mice with identical genotypes. Much less attention has been
devoted to standardizing the behavioural test apparatus, testing protocols, and diverse aspects
of the laboratory environment in which the mice are reared. It is sometimes taken on faith that
apparatus and environmental differences among labs will merely affect the overall mean score
on the tests but will nevertheless yield the same pattern of strain differences in each lab. We
tested this recently by equating the test situation (apparatus and protocols) and many aspects of
the lab environment in three laboratories. Despite our best efforts, however, simultaneous
testing of the same 8 strains results in significant and substantial strain by lab interactions. The
report of this study appeared recently in Science, and detailed protocols as well as the raw data
are available from the web site maintained by Bruce Dudek at SUNY Albany.
Crabbe, J. C., Wahlsten, D., and Dudek, B. C. Genetics of mouse behavior: interactions with
lab environment. Science, 1999. 284: 1670-1672.
Wahlsten, D., Bishop, K., and Kruyer, A. Calibration of computer-monitored running wheels with
adjustable drag. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 1997, 29, 280-285.
Goldowitz, D., Wahlsten, D., and Wimer, R.E. (Eds.), Techniques for the Genetic Analysis of
Brain and Behavior: Focus on the Mouse. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1992.
Lassalle, J.M., and Wahlsten, D. Behavioral paradigms: General procedures and spatial memory.
In: D. Goldowitz, D. Wahlsten and R.E. Wimer (Eds.), Techniques for the Generic Analysis of
Brain and Behavior: Focus on the Mouse. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1992, pp. 391-406.
Wahlsten, D. The problem of test reliability in genetic studies of brain-behavior correlation. In:
D. Goldowitz, D. Wahlsten and R.E. Wimer (Eds.), Techniques for the Genetic Analysis of Brain
and Behavior: Focus on the Mouse. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1992, pp. 407-422.
Lassalle, J.M., Bulman-Fleming, B., and Wahlsten, D. Hybrid vigour and maternal
environment in mice. II. Water escape learning, open field activity and spatial memory.
Behavioural Processes, 1991, 23, 35-45.
Wahlsten, D., Lassalle, J.M., and Bulman-Fleming, B. Hybrid vigour and maternal
environment in mice. III. Hippocampal mossy fibres and behaviour. Behavioural Processes,
1991, 23, 47-57.