We have strongly advocated the use of ethologically relevant housing and observational paradigms for the study of mouse social behavior. We believe that it is critical to provide development expectant socialization to laboratory animals if we wish to understand ‘normal’ brain development and behavior.
In the wild over 90% of Mus musculus females will rear their offspring in communal nests. In the laboratory, the typical method of rearing is one dam with her litter. I have shown that rearing pups in large communal nests (three dams sharing litters) leads to profound changes in the maternal and social behavior of mouse offspring as well as the distribution of oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in several brain regions.Read more.
We have shown that the age at which animals are weaned has significant effects on their social development. Usually in the laboratory, mice are removed from their mothers at day 21 postnatally. We show that mothers will nurse and lick/groom their offspring beyond this period up to day 28 postnatally. During this fourth week postpartum dams will actively wean offspring by pinning and mounting them in response to pups’ nipple solicitations.Read more.