Ueno, H., Takahashi, Y., Suemitsu, S. et al. 2020. Effects of repetitive gentle handling of male C57BL/6NCrl mice on comparative behavioural test results. Scientific Reports 10(1), 3509.

Mice are the most commonly used laboratory animals for studying diseases, behaviour, and pharmacology. Behavioural experiment battery aids in evaluating abnormal behaviour in mice. During behavioural experiments, mice frequently experience human contact. However, the effects of repeated handling on mice behaviour remains unclear. To minimise mice stress, methods of moving mice using transparent tunnels or cups have been recommended but are impractical in behavioural tests. To investigate these effects, we used a behavioural test battery to assess differences between mice accustomed to the experimenter’s handling versus control mice. Repeatedly handled mice gained slightly more weight than control mice. In behavioural tests, repeatedly handled mice showed improved spatial cognition in the Y-maze test and reduced anxiety-like behaviour in the elevated plus-maze test. However, there was no change in anxiety-like behaviour in the light/dark transition test or open-field test. Grip strength, rotarod, sociability, tail suspension, Porsolt forced swim, and passive avoidance tests revealed no significant differences between repeatedly handled and control mice. Our findings demonstrated that mice repeatedly handled by the experimenter before behavioural tests showed reduced anxiety about high altitudes and improved spatial cognition, suggesting that repeated contact can affect the results of some behavioural tests.

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