Automated Three‐Chambered Social Approach Task for Mice

Mu Yang1, Jill L. Silverman1, Jacqueline N. Crawley1

1 Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.26
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0826s56
Online Posting Date:  July, 2011
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Autism is diagnosed by three major symptom categories: unusual reciprocal social interactions, impaired communication, and repetitive behaviors with restricted interests. Direct social approach in mice has strong face validity to simple social approach behaviors in humans, which are frequently impaired in autism. This unit presents a basic protocol for a standardized, high‐throughput social approach test for assaying mouse sociability. Our automated three‐chambered social approach task quantifies direct social approach behaviors when a subject mouse is presented with the choice of spending time with either a novel mouse or a novel object. Sociability is defined as the subject mouse spending more time in the chamber containing the novel target mouse than in the chamber containing the inanimate novel object. The Basic Protocol describes procedures for testing one subject at a time in a single apparatus. A Support Protocol addresses data collection. Curr. Protoc. Neurosci. 56:8.26.1‐8.26.16. © 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Keywords: autism; social behaviors; sociability; social approach; three‐chambered task; mouse models; automated behavioral test

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Basic Protocol 1: Automated Three‐Chambered Social Approach Task
  • Support Protocol 1: Data Collection
  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: Automated Three‐Chambered Social Approach Task

  • Subject mice: e.g., C57BL/6J (B6) and FVB.129P2‐Pde6b+ Tyrc‐ch/AntJ (FVB/AntJ) adult mice (The Jackson Laboratory) or C57BL/6N and FVB/NJ (e.g., Charles River Laboratories or Taconic Farms) between 8 weeks and 6 months of age (see Critical Parameters)
  • Target mice (novel mice): e.g., 129/SvImJ adult mice (The Jackson Laboratory) between 8 weeks and 6 months of age, preferably of the same sex and approximate body weight (within 5 g) as the subjects (see Critical Parameters)
  • Odorless mild dish soap and long‐handled dish sponge
  • 70% (v/v) ethanol in labeled spray bottle
  • Tap water in labeled spray bottle
  • Test room, with minimal cues visible to the subject
  • Two (or more) gooseneck desk lamps with incandescent 75‐watt light bulbs
  • Lux meter (Fisher Scientific)
  • Automated three‐chambered social test apparatus: e.g., Crawley automated three‐chambered social approach apparatus for mice, hardware and software [(Fig. ; Dold Labs and Engineering; (830)560‐1471, , )]; Ugo Basile, cat. no. 46503; Stoelting, cat. no. 60450
  • Computer (Dell desktop, or similar PC) with software provided by the manufacturer of the automated three‐chambered social test apparatus (Dold Labs and Engineering)
  • Automated video tracking systems, optional (e.g., see‐behavior‐research/solutions/research‐small‐lab‐animals/sociability‐test; Page et al., )
  • Heavy‐duty utility paper towels
  • Cameras (preferably CCTV security cameras, e.g., Panasonic WV‐CP280) with mounting bracket
  • DVD recorder (if recording with CCTV cameras)
  • TV monitor (if recording with CCTV cameras)
  • Video cables
  • BNC and RCA connectors
  • Blank DVDs
  • Standard mouse group‐housing cages
  • Marking pen (dark), and (if preferred) paw tattoos, ear punches, ear tags, or subcutaneous transponders
  • Paper tube or small cup (for transporting mouse)
  • Soft facial tissues
  • 3.8‐cm bottom diameter, rust‐proof/rust‐resistant, noncorrosive, steel wire pencil cups (e.g., see‐; Fig. )
  • Holding area: dedicated room or quiet area near the testing room
  • Index cards and broad tip markers
  • Stopwatches without beepers or with beepers silenced (See Fig. )
  • Plastic drinking cups filled with small heavy objects (to place on top of the inverted wire pencil cups)
NOTE: All protocols using live animals must first be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and must follow officially approved procedures for the care and use of laboratory animals.
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