30 research outputs found

    Evaluation of different types of enrichment - their usage and effect on home cage behavior in female mice

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    Numerous studies ascertained positive effects of enriched environments on the well-being of laboratory animals including behavioral, physiological and neurochemical parameters. Conversely, such conclusions imply impaired animal welfare and health in barren husbandry conditions. Moreover, inappropriate housing of laboratory animals may deteriorate the quality of scientific data. Recommendations for housing laboratory animals stipulate that cages should be enriched to mitigate adverse effects of barren housing. In this context, it is not only unclear what exactly is meant by enrichment, but also how the animals themselves interact with the various items on offer. Focal animal observation of female C57BL/6J mice either housed in conventional (CON) or enriched (ENR) conditions served to analyze the impact of enriching housing on welfare related behavior patterns including stereotypical, maintenance, active social, and inactive behaviors. CON conditions resembled current usual housing of laboratory mice, whereas ENR mice received varying enrichment items including foraging, housing and structural elements, and a running disc. Active and inactive use of these elements was quantitatively assessed. CON mice showed significantly more inactive and stereotypical behavior than ENR mice. ENR mice frequently engaged with all enrichment elements, whereby riddles to obtain food reward and the running disc preferably served for active interactions. Offering a second level resulted in high active and inactive interactions. Structural elements fixed at the cagetop were least attractive for the mice. Overall, the presented data underline the positive welfare benefits of enrichment and that mice clearly differentiate between distinct enrichment types, demonstrating that the perspective of the animals themselves should also be taken into account when specifying laboratory housing conditions. This is particularly important, as the ensuring of animal welfare is an essential prerequisite for reliable, reproducible, and scientifically meaningful results

    Revisiting the Impact of Atmospheric Dispersion and Differential Refraction on Widefield Multiobject Spectroscopic Observations. From VLT/VIMOS to Next Generation Instruments

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    (Abridged) Atmospheric dispersion and field differential refraction impose severe constraints on widefield MOS observations. Flux reduction and spectral distortions must be minimised by a careful planning of the observations -- which is especially true for instruments that use slits instead of fibres. This is the case of VIMOS at the VLT, where MOS observations have been restricted, since the start of operations, to a narrow two-hour range from the meridian to minimise slit losses. We revisit in detail the impact of atmospheric effects on the quality of VIMOS-MOS spectra. We model slit losses across the entire VIMOS FOV as a function of target declination. We explore two different slit orientations at the meridian: along the parallactic angle (North-South), and perpendicular to it (East-West). We show that, for fields culminating at zenith distances larger than 20 deg, slit losses are minimised with slits oriented along the parallactic angle at the meridian. The two-hour angle rule holds for these observations using N-S orientations. Conversely, for fields with zenith angles smaller than 20 deg at culmination, losses are minimised with slits oriented perpendicular to the parallactic angle at the meridian. MOS observations can be effectively extended to plus/minus three hours from the meridian in these cases. In general, night-long observations of a single field will benefit from using the E-W orientation. All-sky or service mode observations, however, require a more elaborate planning that depends on the target declination, and the hour angle of the observations. We establish general rules for the alignment of slits in MOS observations that will increase target observability, enhance the efficiency of operations, and speed up the completion of programmes -- a particularly relevant aspect for the forthcoming spectroscopic public surveys with VIMOS.Comment: Accepted to A&A. 11 pages, 15 figures. This paper presents the new recommendations for optimal slit alignment in VLT/VIMOS observation

    Effects of more natural housing conditions on the muscular and skeletal characteristics of female C57BL/6J mice

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    Background Enrichment of home cages in laboratory experiments offers clear advantages, but has been criticized in some respects. First, there is a lack of definition, which makes methodological uniformity difficult. Second, there is concern that the enrichment of home cages may increase the variance of results in experiments. Here, the influence of more natural housing conditions on physiological parameters of female C57BL/6J mice was investigated from an animal welfare point of view. For this purpose, the animals were kept in three different housing conditions: conventional cage housing, enriched housing and the semi naturalistic environment. The focus was on musculoskeletal changes after long-term environmental enrichment. Results The housing conditions had a long-term effect on the body weight of the test animals. The more complex and natural the home cage, the heavier the animals. This was associated with increased adipose deposits in the animals. There were no significant changes in muscle and bone characteristics except for single clues (femur diameter, bone resorption marker CTX-1). Additionally, the animals in the semi naturalistic environment (SNE) were found to have the fewest bone anomalies. Housing in the SNE appears to have the least effect on stress hormone concentrations. The lowest oxygen uptake was observed in enriched cage housing. Conclusions Despite increasing values, observed body weights were in the normal and strain-typical range. Overall, musculoskeletal parameters were slightly improved and age-related effects appear to have been attenuated. The variances in the results were not increased by more natural housing. This confirms the suitability of the applied housing conditions to ensure and increase animal welfare in laboratory experiments

    Challenges and advanced concepts for the assessment of learning and memory function in mice

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    The mechanisms underlying the formation and retrieval of memories are still an active area of research and discussion. Manifold models have been proposed and refined over the years, with most assuming a dichotomy between memory processes involving non-conscious and conscious mechanisms. Despite our incomplete understanding of the underlying mechanisms, tests of memory and learning count among the most performed behavioral experiments. Here, we will discuss available protocols for testing learning and memory using the example of the most prevalent animal species in research, the laboratory mouse. A wide range of protocols has been developed in mice to test, e.g., object recognition, spatial learning, procedural memory, sequential problem solving, operant- and fear conditioning, and social recognition. Those assays are carried out with individual subjects in apparatuses such as arenas and mazes, which allow for a high degree of standardization across laboratories and straightforward data interpretation but are not without caveats and limitations. In animal research, there is growing concern about the translatability of study results and animal welfare, leading to novel approaches beyond established protocols. Here, we present some of the more recent developments and more advanced concepts in learning and memory testing, such as multi-step sequential lockboxes, assays involving groups of animals, as well as home cage-based assays supported by automated tracking solutions; and weight their potential and limitations against those of established paradigms. Shifting the focus of learning tests from the classical experimental chamber to settings which are more natural for rodents comes with a new set of challenges for behavioral researchers, but also offers the opportunity to understand memory formation and retrieval in a more conclusive way than has been attainable with conventional test protocols. We predict and embrace an increase in studies relying on methods involving a higher degree of automatization, more naturalistic- and home cage-based experimental setting as well as more integrated learning tasks in the future. We are confident these trends are suited to alleviate the burden on animal subjects and improve study designs in memory research

    Challenges and advanced concepts for the assessment of learning and memory function in mice

    Get PDF
    The mechanisms underlying the formation and retrieval of memories are still an active area of research and discussion. Manifold models have been proposed and refined over the years, with most assuming a dichotomy between memory processes involving non-conscious and conscious mechanisms. Despite our incomplete understanding of the underlying mechanisms, tests of memory and learning count among the most performed behavioral experiments. Here, we will discuss available protocols for testing learning and memory using the example of the most prevalent animal species in research, the laboratory mouse. A wide range of protocols has been developed in mice to test, e.g., object recognition, spatial learning, procedural memory, sequential problem solving, operant- and fear conditioning, and social recognition. Those assays are carried out with individual subjects in apparatuses such as arenas and mazes, which allow for a high degree of standardization across laboratories and straightforward data interpretation but are not without caveats and limitations. In animal research, there is growing concern about the translatability of study results and animal welfare, leading to novel approaches beyond established protocols. Here, we present some of the more recent developments and more advanced concepts in learning and memory testing, such as multi-step sequential lockboxes, assays involving groups of animals, as well as home cage-based assays supported by automated tracking solutions; and weight their potential and limitations against those of established paradigms. Shifting the focus of learning tests from the classical experimental chamber to settings which are more natural for rodents comes with a new set of challenges for behavioral researchers, but also offers the opportunity to understand memory formation and retrieval in a more conclusive way than has been attainable with conventional test protocols. We predict and embrace an increase in studies relying on methods involving a higher degree of automatization, more naturalistic- and home cage-based experimental setting as well as more integrated learning tasks in the future. We are confident these trends are suited to alleviate the burden on animal subjects and improve study designs in memory research

    Bored at home?‚ÄĒA systematic review on the effect of environmental enrichment on the welfare of laboratory rats and mice

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    Boredom is an emotional state that occurs when an individual has nothing to do, is not interested in the surrounding, and feels dreary and in a monotony. While this condition is usually defined for humans, it may very well describe the lives of many laboratory animals housed in small, barren cages. To make the cages less monotonous, environmental enrichment is often proposed. Although housing in a stimulating environment is still used predominantly as a luxury good and for treatment in preclinical research, enrichment is increasingly recognized to improve animal welfare. To gain insight into how stimulating environments influence the welfare of laboratory rodents, we conducted a systematic review of studies that analyzed the effect of enriched environment on behavioral parameters of animal well‚Äďbeing. Remarkably, a considerable number of these parameters can be associated with symptoms of boredom. Our findings show that a stimulating living environment is essential for the development of natural behavior and animal welfare of laboratory rats and mice alike, regardless of age and sex. Conversely, confinement and under-stimulation has potentially detrimental effects on the mental and physical health of laboratory rodents. We show that boredom in experimental animals is measurable and does not have to be accepted as inevitable

    Unveiling a Rich System of Faint Dwarf Galaxies in the Next Generation Fornax Survey

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    We report the discovery of 158 previously undetected dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster central regions using a deep coadded u,gu, g and ii-band image obtained with the DECam wide-field camera mounted on the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory as part of the {\it Next Generation Fornax Survey} (NGFS). The new dwarf galaxies have quasi-exponential light profiles, effective radii 0.1‚ÄČ‚Ā£<‚ÄČ‚Ā£re‚ÄČ‚Ā£<‚ÄČ‚Ā£2.80.1\!<\!r_e\!<\!2.8 kpc and average effective surface brightness values 22.0‚ÄČ‚Ā£<‚ÄČ‚Ā£őľi‚ÄČ‚Ā£<‚ÄČ‚Ā£28.022.0\!<\!\mu_i\!<\!28.0 mag arcsec‚ąí2^{-2}. We confirm the existence of ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) in the Fornax core regions that resemble counterparts recently discovered in the Virgo and Coma galaxy clusters.~We also find extremely low surface brightness NGFS dwarfs, which are several magnitudes fainter than the classical UDGs. The faintest dwarf candidate in our NGFS sample has an absolute magnitude of Mi‚ÄČ‚Ā£=‚ÄČ‚Ā£‚ąí8.0M_i\!=\!-8.0\,mag. The nucleation fraction of the NGFS dwarf galaxy sample appears to decrease as a function of their total luminosity, reaching from a nucleation fraction of >‚ÄČ‚Ā£75%>\!75\% at luminosities brighter than Mi‚ÄČ‚Ā£‚ČÉ‚ÄČ‚Ā£‚ąí15.0M_i\!\simeq\!-15.0 mag to 0%0\% at luminosities fainter than Mi‚ÄČ‚Ā£‚ČÉ‚ÄČ‚Ā£‚ąí10.0M_i\!\simeq\!-10.0 mag. The two-point correlation function analysis of the NGFS dwarf sample shows an excess on length scales below ‚ąľ‚ÄČ‚Ā£100\sim\!100 kpc, pointing to the clustering of dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster core.Comment: 6 pages, 3 figures. Accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Download the high-resolution version of the paper from the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xb9vz8s29wlzjgf/ms.pdf?dl=

    Uniting Old Stellar Systems: From Globular Clusters to Giant Ellipticals

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    Here we examine the relationship between the virial and stellar mass for a range of old stellar systems, from GCs to giant ellipticals, and including such Intermediate Mass Objects (IMOs). Improvements on previous work in this area include the use of (i) near-infrared magnitudes from the 2MASS survey, (ii) aperture corrections to velocity dispersions, (iii) homogeneous half light radii and (iv) accounting for the effects of non-homology in galaxies. We find a virial-to-stellar mass relation that ranges from ~104^4 M_o systems (GCs) to ~1011^11 M_o systems (elliptical galaxies). The lack of measured velocity dispersions for dwarf ellipticals with -16 > M_K > -18 (~108^8 M_o) currently inhibits our ability to determine how, or indeed if, these galaxies connect continuously with GCs in terms of their virial-to-stellar mass ratios. We find elliptical galaxies to have roughly equal fractions of dark and stellar matter within a virial radius; only in the most massive (greater than 1011^11 M_o) ellipticals does dark matter dominate the virial mass. Although the IMOs reveal slightly higher virial-to-stellar mass ratios than lower mass GCs, this may simply reflect our limited understanding of their IMF (and hence their stellar mass-to-light ratios) or structural properties. We argue that most of these intermediate mass objects are a natural extension of the GC sequence to higher masses, i.e. IMOs are essentially massive star clusters. [Abridged].Comment: 15 pages, 14 figures, 1 table, submitted to MNRAS 22/5/08, Revised to include data from Mieske etal. (0806.0374), accepted by MNRAS 22/7/08. See http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/dforbes for full Tabl
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