Rigor and reproducibility in rodent behavioral research

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2019 Nov:165:106780. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Behavioral neuroscience research incorporates the identical high level of meticulous methodologies and exacting attention to detail as all other scientific disciplines. To achieve maximal rigor and reproducibility of findings, well-trained investigators employ a variety of established best practices. Here we explicate some of the requirements for rigorous experimental design and accurate data analysis in conducting mouse and rat behavioral tests. Novel object recognition is used as an example of a cognitive assay which has been conducted successfully with a range of methods, all based on common principles of appropriate procedures, controls, and statistics. Directors of Rodent Core facilities within Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers contribute key aspects of their own novel object recognition protocols, offering insights into essential similarities and less-critical differences. Literature cited in this review article will lead the interested reader to source papers that provide step-by-step protocols which illustrate optimized methods for many standard rodent behavioral assays. Adhering to best practices in behavioral neuroscience will enhance the value of animal models for the multiple goals of understanding biological mechanisms, evaluating consequences of genetic mutations, and discovering efficacious therapeutics.

Keywords: Behavior; Behavioral assays; Best practices; Cognitive; Experimental design; Mice; Novel object recognition; Rats; Replication; Reproducibility; Rigor; Statistical analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Behavioral Research / standards
  • Mice / psychology*
  • Rats / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design