PhD Student funded by UFAW
Title: Stress, Sex and Memory in Laboratory Rats
Background: There is significant enthusiasm by scientists, funding agencies and legislators to pay attention to the welfare needs of laboratory animals. Not only do housing conditions impact heavily on the animalís welfare, but also they may affect the animalís cognitive performance- therefore confounding any data produced as a result of an experimental manipulation. Housing may affect average performance in at least two ways: firstly through causing stress to the animal e.g. as a result of isolation, and secondly through neurophysiological changes as a result of differential experience e.g. use induced neuronal plasticity. This project seeks to determine the impact of various kinds of enrichment during juvenile and adult development on the spatial ability of laboratory rats and whether these effects are dependent on the sex of the animal. Enrichment can be thought of in two ways Ė the physical environment an animal experiences and the social environment. We will manipulate both these environments e.g. through the addition of conspecifics, toys, larger home cages etc and determine the impact on adult spatial cognition. Ultimately we hope to determine how housing conditions of laboratory rats, i.e. physical and social environments, impinge on the scientific validity of data generated using such models.