Mice pass sniff test

7 06 2015

On Friday Stephen and I tested the mice to see if they could still tells herbs apart by smell, despite their advanced age. Eight test cages had had two tea infusers full of a rodent chow-herb mix placed in their feed hoppers a few days ago (half had two containing turmeric, while the other half had two containing thyme).

To test their discriminative abilities, Stephen refilled each pair of infusers, replacing one with fresh powder of the same flavour as before, but changing the other so it now smelled of the other one of the two herbs. He did this behind a screen, and didn’t tell me which was which, nor what each cage had been exposed to before. This allowed me to be the blind observer whose job it was to judge which of the replaced tea infusers attracted the most attention. If the mice could tell the odours apart, they should have habituated to the herb they’d already had for a few days, but show lots of interest in the new odour.

7/8 times I successfully picked the new odour as being the one the mice were most curious about (the 8th I was very unsure of: the mice got distracted by a metal prong from one infuser that was accidentally sticking into the cage). This is significantly different from chance (p = 0.039), which reassures us that it is now worth testing these mice for their flavour preferences: the next stage of this replicate of Laura’s project.

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