Home-cage activity in heterogeneous stock (HS) mice as a model of baseline activity

Genes Brain Behav. 2002 Aug;1(3):166-73. doi: 10.1034/j.1601-183x.2002.10304.x.


Behavioral genetic work in humans indicates that clinical hyperactivity is best viewed as the extreme end of activity levels in the population. However, current animal models of hyperactivity are not studied as quantitative traits as they are either knockout models or inbred strains. Furthermore, these animal models generally demonstrate elevated locomotion in novel environments, but not in their home-cages. This is the opposite of the symptoms seen in the human condition where childhood hyperactivity is generally more pronounced in constant, unstimulating situations. In this study we filmed an outbred population of 44 heterogeneous stock (HS) mice under red light during their active phase, to assess the reliability of individual differences in home-cage behavior and extract an index of home-cage activity (HCA) level. We then compared this measure to locomotor behavior in a novel environment--the open-field. Reliable individual differences in home-cage behaviors such as running, swinging on bars, and burrowing were found, and principal component factor analysis yielded a general activity factor, which accounted for 32% of the variance and correlated 0.90 with a subjective impression of activity level. The correlation between HCA and locomotor activity in the open-field was 0.23, which was non-significant. However, the association with HCA level appeared to increase over the five minutes of the open-field, presumably as the mice habituated. Furthermore, although mice displaying particularly high and low HCA were indistinguishable early in the open-field task, they became significantly differentiated over time. We conclude that home-cage behaviors and the open-field, after habituation, display good face and construct validity, and may provide a good model of baseline activity for quantitative trait loci (QTL) discovery and functional genomics in the HS mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / genetics*
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Reference Values
  • Social Environment*