The impact of environmental enrichment on the outcome variability and scientific validity of laboratory animal studies

Rev Sci Tech. 2014 Apr;33(1):273-80. doi: 10.20506/rst.33.1.2282.


It has been widely accepted for some time that species-appropriate environmental enrichment is important for the welfare of research animals, but its impact on research data initially received little attention. This has now changed, as the use of enrichment as one element of routine husbandry has expanded. In addition to its use in the care of larger research animals, such as nonhuman primates, it is now being used to improve the environments of small research animals, such as rodents, which are used in significantly greater numbers and in a wide variety of studies. Concern has been expressed that enrichment negatively affects both experimental validity and reproducibility. However, when a concise definition of enrichment is used, with a sound understanding of the biology and behaviour of the animal as well as the research constraints, it becomes clear that the welfare of research animals can be enhanced through environmental enrichment without compromising their purpose. Indeed, it is shown that the converse is true: the provision of suitable enrichment enhances the well-being of the animal, thereby refining the animal model and improving the research data. Thus, the argument is made that both the validity and reproducibility of the research are enhanced when proper consideration is given to the research animal's living environment and the animal's opportunities to express species-typical behaviours.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animal Welfare / standards*
  • Animals
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Laboratory Animal Science*