Stereotypies are repetitive, unvarying, apparently purposeless behavioural patterns. They develop in animals kept in barren environments and are highly prevalent in laboratory mice (Mus musculus), yet their underlying mechanisms have remained elusive. In humans, stereotypies are associated with several psychiatric disorders and are thought to reflect dysfunction of inhibition of motor programs mediated by the corticostriatal circuitry, resulting in recurrent perseveration (=inappropriate repetition of behavioural responses). Several studies in captive animals of different species have reported a correlation between stereotypy performance and perseverative behaviour, indicating a similar dysfunction. To examine whether stereotypies in mice correlate with recurrent perseveration and whether they are causally related, we raised 40 female ICR CD-1 mice in either barren or enriched cages from three to either six or 16 weeks of age (2 × 2 factorial design) and assessed stereotypic behaviour in the home cage and recurrent perseveration on a two-choice guessing task. Enrichment significantly reduced stereotypic behaviour both at six and 16 weeks of age and recurrent perseveration increased with age. Although enriched housing reduced the number of repetitions in the guessing task significantly, there was no clear evidence for an effect on recurrent perseveration, and recurrent perseveration did not correlate positively with stereotypy level. These findings indicate either that this test did not measure recurrent perseveration or that cage stereotypies in these mice do not reflect behavioural disinhibition as measured by recurrent perseveration.
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