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Higher heart rate of laboratory mice housed individually vs in pairs.

Spani, D., Arras, M., Konig, B. and Rulicke, T.

Laboratory Animals, 37(1), 54-62 (2003).

Many studies have shown that housing mice individually over a long period significantly alters their physiology, but in most cases measurement has required human interference and restraint for sampling. Using a radio-telemetry system with implantable transmitters, we recorded heart rate (HR), motor activity (ACT) and body temperature (BT) of freely moving male mice (NMRI) housed either individually or in pairs with an ovarectomized female. Data for each parameter were collected at 5 min intervals for two consecutive 24 h periods. Even after several weeks of habituation to the social conditions, HR was increased in mice housed individually compared with mice housed in pairs, although their measured ACT did not differ. Additionally, BT tended to be reduced in individually-housed mice. When the data were analysed according to different ACT levels, HR was increased in individually-housed mice during phases of low and high, but not intermediate, motor activity. Furthermore, individually-housed mice had more, but shorter, resting bouts, indicating disruption of the normal circadian sleep pattern. Enhanced HR in individually-housed mice does not necessarily indicate stress, but might be an important physiological indicator of discomfort. The fact that individual housing alters basic physiological parameters in laboratory mice highlights the need to control for housing-dependent variation, especially in experiments that are sensitive to changes in these parameters.