Article CC BY 4.0
refereed
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Alternate without alternative: Neither preference nor learning explains behaviour of C57BL/6J mice in the T-maze

Affiliation
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department 9 Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET, Unit 92 ZEBET – Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments, Germany
Habedank, Anne;
ORCID
0000-0001-8959-8624
Affiliation
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department 9 Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET, Unit 92 ZEBET – Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments, Germany
Kahnau, Pia;
ORCID
0000-0002-0202-4351
Affiliation
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department 9 Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET, Unit 92 ZEBET – Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments, Germany
Lewejohann, Lars

In rodents, the T-maze is commonly used to investigate spontaneous alternating behaviour, but it can also be used to investigate preference between goods. However, for T-maze preference tests with mice there is no recommended protocol and researchers frequently report reproduction difficulties. Here, we tried to develop an efficient protocol with female C57BL/6J CrL mice for preference tests. We used two different designs, adapting habituation, cues and trial timing. However, in both experiments mice did not show any preference, although we used goods which we knew mice find rewarding. Instead, they alternated choices indicating that exploratory behaviour overruled preference. We argue that this behavioural strategy has evolved as an adaptive trait in saturated conditions where there is no need to take the reward immediately. Therefore, we deem the T-maze unsuitable for preference testing with the procedures we used here.

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