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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science
Project grant

Could ultrasonic vocalisations provide the elusive, graded measure of affective state needed to inform refinements For The Laboratory Rat?

A white rat on a table

At a glance

Pending start
Award date
September 2023 - September 2026
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Professor Emma Robinson
University of Bristol


  • Refinement



This award aims to determine whether ultrasonic vocalisations by rats can be used to quantify whether refinements cause positive or negative experiences and how these impact animal welfare.

It can be challenging to objectively measure whether changes to housing and husbandry positively impact animal welfare, particularly when the refinements are intended to improve the animal’s emotional state. Investigating emotional state typically requires animals to be removed from their home cage to undergo behavioural assays. Studies have shown that adult rats make ultrasonic vocalisations at different frequencies when they experience positive or negative events. Professor Emma Robinson will determine the effect of two refinement approaches on vocalisations as a proof-of-concept they can be used to understand rat welfare.