“Er, I think you just lost your right temporal lobe”

23 07 2013

The wonderful Elena Choleris spent some of her morning teaching me how to extract mouse brains. It was much harder than mink brains – they are so tiny, and the instruments huge and clumsy in comparison (in my hands anyway). She had to tell me some things several times — I forgot how hard it is learning new things.

The trigger for this is that Mike and Carole‘s three strain experiment is ending right now. We’ve been co-housing DBAs (brown), C57s (black) and BALBcs (white) all together, three strains per cage (so, a rainbow nation of mice, and housed in two cage types too – enriched and non-enriched) to see if it affects their welfare; any other measures from an array of behavioural tests, post-mortem organ weights and haematological screens; or the variance of the data we collect. If it doesn’t, then this unorthodox way of housing mice is valuable because it yields a statistically uber-powerful way to get data from three strains at once while using fewer animals than standard single-strain housing; it also eliminates the need to individually mark mice too (good because this is stressful). Capitalising on the ending of this study, I want to see if mice that seem to have especially high or low welfare when raised in enriched or non-enriched cages, also differ in their brain development (assessed very very simply at this stage, from cortical thickness and hippocampal volume).

It’s never great killing this many animals, but we hire a technician who’s really skilled at cervical dislocation (about as swift as it gets) so as to avoid using CO2 (nasty), and all the bodies are fed to my friend Francis’s snakes.