Social withdrawal is associated with a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, including neurodevelopmental disorders. Rodent studies provide the opportunity to study neurobiological mechanisms underlying social withdrawal, however, homologous paradigms to increase translatability of social behaviour between human and animal observation are needed. Standard behavioural rodent assays have limited ethological validity in terms of number of interaction partners, type of behaviour, duration of observation and environmental conditions. In addition, reproducibility of behavioural findings in rodents is further limited by manual and subjective behavioural scoring. Using a newly developed automated tracking tool for longitudinal monitoring of freely moving mice, we assessed social behaviours (approach, sniff, follow and leave) over seven consecutive days in colonies of BTBR and of C57BL/6J mice in two independent laboratories. Results from both laboratories confirmed previous findings of reduced social interaction in BTBR mice revealing a high level of reproducibility for this mouse phenotype using longitudinal colony assessments. In addition, we showed that detector settings contribute to laboratory specific findings as part of the behavioural data analysis procedure. Our cross-site study demonstrates reproducibility and robustness of reduced social interaction in BTBR mice using automated analysis in an ethologically relevant context.
Keywords: automated tracking; circadian; ethology; long-term monitoring; social behaviour; translational neuroscience.
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