In a study that sounds like something dreamed up by the mischief-makers at The Onion, experimenters at the University of Colorado (CU) have determined that putting mice into uncomfortable cages and moving them from cage to cage upsets them to the point that it physically alters their brains. This, the experimenters conclude, “affects the outcomes of research.” Gee, ya think?
Another stunning discovery: Introducing a strange mouse to this already stressful mix may even cause the animals to fight to protect their little bit of turf. Experimenters also injured the animals’ noses and shoved them into cages with either low or high ventilation for a few weeks, killed them, and cut up their brains for examination.
“We assume that mice used in laboratories are all the same, but they are not,” Diego Restrepo, director of CU’s neuroscience program, told Science Daily. Wow, if only someone had called us, we could have saved Restrepo (and the mice) a lot of trouble—not to mention all the government grant money it would have saved the taxpayers. We also could have told him that housing animals in crowded cages and failing to provide prompt veterinary care and adequate anesthesia during painful surgeries (all of which has been documented at CU laboratories) can also skew research findings.
Anybody who has spent any time with mice knows that they each have individual personalities, just like cats, dogs, and all other animals do. They also feel pain and experience loneliness, boredom, and fear. So, yes, sticking them in cramped cages, hauling them out every once in a while to poke and prod them, and forcing them to live in close proximity with strangers upsets them. Apparently, Common Sense 101 isn’t a prerequisite at CU.
Written by Alisa Mullins