Adcock, A., Choleris, E., Denommé, M. et al. 2021. Where are you from? Female mice raised in enriched or conventional cages differ socially, and can be discriminated by other mice. Behavioural Brain Research 400, 113025.

Laboratory rodents raised in environmentally-enriched (EE) cages differ behaviourally and cognitively from conventionally-housed (CH) animals. We hypothesised that mice can detect such differences, testing this using differentially-raised female C57BL/6 s as subjects, and differentially-raised female BALB/cs and DBA/2 s as stimuli, in Social Approach Tests. Because more prone to signs of depression, anxiety, stereotypic behaviour (SB) and aggression, we further hypothesised that CH mice would be less sociable and socially attractive than EE mice. A novel familiarisation paradigm pre-exposed subjects to non-cagemate EE and CH stimulus mice before testing in Social Approach Tests. CH subjects proved less sociable than EE subjects: an effect unrelated to general exploration, anxiety or depression-like traits, and driven specifically by reduced interest in CH stimulus mice. Providing further evidence that CH and EE stimulus mice could be distinguished, subjects proved most attracted to mice from housing unlike their own. CH subjects thus preferred EE over CH stimulus mice, while EE subjects tended to prefer CH over EE: patterns that were not mediated by any measured aspect of stimulus mouse behaviour. Differential bodyweight also seemed unimportant, as was scent: soiled CH and EE bedding/nesting did not elicit the same discrimination. Instead, subjects who avoided CH stimulus mice and were attracted to EE stimulus mice were those who received the most agonism in their home cages. Together this provides the first demonstration that mice can distinguish between individuals raised in enriched or conventional cages, and suggests that receiving agonism from cagemates may motivate mice to seek new, less aggressive companions.

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