Refinements to rodent head fixation and fluid/food control for neuroscience.
Barkus C., Bergmann C., Branco T., Carandini M., Chadderton PT., Galiñanes GL., Gilmour G., Huber D., Huxter JR., Khan AG., King AJ., Maravall M., O'Mahony T., Ragan CI., Robinson ESJ., Schaefer AT., Schultz SR., Sengpiel F., Prescott MJ.
The use of head fixation in mice is increasingly common in research, its use having initially been restricted to the field of sensory neuroscience. Head restraint has often been combined with fluid control, rather than food restriction, to motivate behaviour, but this too is now in use for both restrained and non-restrained animals. Despite this, there is little guidance on how best to employ these techniques to optimise both scientific outcomes and animal welfare. This article summarises current practices and provides recommendations to improve animal wellbeing and data quality, based on a survey of the community, literature reviews, and the expert opinion and practical experience of an international working group convened by the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). Topics covered include head fixation surgery and post-operative care, habituation to restraint, and the use of fluid/food control to motivate performance. We also discuss some recent developments that may offer alternative ways to collect data from large numbers of behavioural trials without the need for restraint. The aim is to provide support for researchers at all levels, animal care staff, and ethics committees to refine procedures and practices in line with the refinement principle of the 3Rs.