Our current understanding of litter variability in neurodevelopmental studies using mice may limit translation of neuroscientific findings. Higher variance of measures across litters than within, often termed intra-litter likeness, may be attributable to both pre- and postnatal environment. This study aimed to assess the litter-effect within behavioral assessments (2 timepoints) and anatomy using T1-weighted magnetic resonance images across 72 brain region volumes (4 timepoints) (36 C57bl/6J inbred mice; 7 litters: 19F/17M). Between-litter comparisons of brain and behavioral measures and their associations were evaluated using univariate and multivariate techniques. A power analysis using simulation methods was then performed on modeled neurodevelopment and to evaluate trade-offs between number-of-litters, number-of-mice-per-litter, and sample size. Our results show litter-specific developmental effects, from the adolescent period to adulthood for brain structure volumes and behaviors, and for their associations in adulthood. Our power simulation analysis suggests increasing the number-of-litters in experimental designs to achieve the smallest total sample size necessary for detecting different rates of change in specific brain regions. Our results demonstrate how litter-specific effects may influence development and that increasing the litters to the total sample size ratio should be strongly considered when designing neurodevelopmental studies.
Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging; Mouse model; Neurodevelopment; Partial Least Squares; Power analysis; Principal Component Analysis.
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