Introducing Clicker Training as a Cognitive Enrichment for Laboratory Mice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
C. Leidinger, F. Herrmann, C. Thoene-Reineke, N. Baumgart, J. Baumgart
Journal of Visualized Experiments
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Establishing new refinement strategies in laboratory animal science is a central goal in fulfilling the requirements of Directive 2010/63/EU. Previous research determined a profound impact of gentle handling protocols on the well-being of laboratory mice. By introducing clicker training to the keeping of mice, not only do we promote the amicable treatment of mice, but we also enable them to experience cognitive enrichment. Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement training using a conditioned secondary reinforcer, the “click” sound of a clicker, which serves as a time bridge between the strengthened behavior and an upcoming reward. The effective implementation of the clicker training protocol with a cohort of 12 BALB/c inbred mice of each sex proved to be uncomplicated. The mice learned rather quickly when challenged with tasks of the clicker training protocol, and almost all trained mice overcame the challenges they were given (100% of female mice and 83% of male mice). This study has identified that clicker training for mice strongly correlates with reduced fear in the mice during human-mice interactions, as shown by reduced anxiety-related behaviors (e.g., defecation, vocalization, and urination) and fewer depression-like behaviors (e.g., floating). By developing a reliable protocol that can be easily integrated into the daily routine of the keeping of laboratory mice, the lifetime experience of welfare in the mice can be improved substantially.


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