Rodent high-yield behavioural experiments

We have convened an expert working group to refine behavioural training of rodents for high-yield sensory discrimination tasks. This work was instigated at the request of academics from the sensory neuroscience research community.

The field of sensory neuroscience is changing with the advent of increasingly sophisticated behavioural equipment which makes it possible to run hundreds of behavioural trials within a single session (high-yield behavioural tasks). By conducting such densely-packed sessions, the data yield and robustness of these studies is increased. This experimental approach can be used to study the neural activity underlying sensory behaviours in response to odours, auditory stimuli, visual stimuli and tactile cues.

The increasing use of rodents in high-yield behavioural tasks has highlighted possible welfare concerns. For example, surgery is required to implant head-fixation devices to ensure precise control of head movements for stable neural recordings and, in most of these studies, animals are motivated to participate in behavioural tasks by food or fluid restriction. While these methods are used commonly in the field, there is little consensus on how they are best performed and whether alternatives could be used in certain circumstances. Establishing best practice for these experiments represents a refinement opportunity in this ever-growing field.

The working group includes academics, industry scientists, a veterinarian and animal care staff with experience in sensory and behavioural neuroscience. The group will review the existing literature as well as the current practices of the sensory neuroscience research community to define best practice. This will help to identify opportunities to apply the 3Rs, particularly refinements, to these high-yield sensory discrimination tasks. These group’s recommendations will be published in a peer-reviewed paper and promoted with the research community.

Dr Ian Ragan (Chair)


Dr Chris Barkus


Dr Caroline Bergmann

University of Oxford

Dr Tiago Branco

University College London

Prof Matteo Carandini

University College London

Dr Paul Chadderton

University of Bristol

Dr Gary Gilmour

Eli Lilly and Company Limited

Prof Daniel Huber

University of Geneva

Dr Adil Khan

King’s College London

Prof Andrew King

University of Oxford

Dr Katie Lidster


Prof Miguel Maravall

University of Sussex

Mrs Tina O’Mahoney

University College London

Dr Mark Prescott


Prof Emma Robinson

University of Bristol

Prof Andreas Schaefer

Francis Crick Institute

Prof Simon Schultz

Imperial College London

Prof Frank Sengpiel

Cardiff University

Back to top