A comparison of wild-caught wood mice and bank voles in the Intellicage: assessing exploration, daily activity patterns and place learning paradigms

Behav Brain Res. 2005 Feb 28;157(2):211-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2004.06.021.


Our previous work has revealed very high baseline neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of wood mice as compared particularly to bank voles; a difference which may be related to learning capacity. This study explored whether the newly-developed Intellicage system could be used to compare these species in simple spatial learning paradigms. The Intellicage is essentially a group-housing cage that also allows continuous automatic recording of each individual's behaviour. Seven wild-caught bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) were compared with seven wild-caught long-tailed wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) in the Intellicage system over 9 days. During the first 90 min after entering the cage, the wood mice were substantially more exploratory than the bank voles (P = 0.003). Over subsequent days, both species showed nocturnal activity increases with voles being 3.7 times more active overall. In the spatial learning paradigms, there were significant species-by-time interactions with wood mice outperforming bank voles on both place learning (P = 0.027) and subsequent reversal (P = 0.006). Conclusions are firstly that the wood mice show superior learning abilities in this paradigm, and secondly that the Intellicage serves as a valuable cognitive testing arena for small wild rodents, or for circumstances where cognition must be compared independent of different responses to handling or novel environments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activity Cycles / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae / physiology*
  • Behavioral Research / instrumentation*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Muridae / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Reversal Learning / physiology
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Telemetry / instrumentation