Krakenberg, V., Wewer,M., Palme, R. et al. 2021. Regular touchscreen training affects faecal corticosterone metabolites and anxiety-like behaviour in mice. Behavioural Brain Research 401, 113080.

Automated touchscreen techniques find increasing application for the assessment of cognitive function in rodents. However, hardly anything is known about the potential impact of touchscreen-based training and testing procedures on the animals under investigation. Addressing this question appears particularly important in light of the long and intensive training phases required for most of the operant tasks. Against this background, we here investigated the influence of regular touchscreen training on hormones and behaviour of mice. Faecal corticosterone metabolites (FCMs), reflecting corticosterone levels around the time of treatment, were significantly increased in touchscreen-trained mice, even one week after the training phase was already terminated. Such an effect was not detected on baseline FCMs. Thus, regular touchscreen training can be assumed to cause long-term effects on hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. Furthermore, anxiety-like behaviour was increased in touchscreen-trained mice two weeks after the end of the training phase. Traditionally, this would be interpreted as a negative influence of the training procedure on the animals’ affective state. Yet, we also provide two alternative explanations, taking the possibility into account that touchscreen training might have enriching properties.

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