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Psychotic Lab Mice

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the jury-of-their-peers dept.

Science 130

meltoast writes "We send lab mice through a maze to see their reactions and then take that information and apply it to our knowledge of the human psyche. Well, what if those mice are completely out of their minds? Discover recently ran an article showing that mice kept in a standard laboratory environment may be crazy. 'In one sequence, a mouse climbs the stainless-steel walls of its cage, hangs from the ceiling by its forelegs while gnawing on the bars, then drops to the floor, only to repeat the process endlessly. On the other side of the cage, a second mouse performs backflips, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.'"

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All maze, no beer make Homer something something.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6495300)

... Go crazy?

Don't mind if I do!!

Those hyperintelligent pandimensional beings!! (5, Funny)

deek (22697) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495318)

  • How better to disguise their real natures, and how better to guide your thinking. Suddenly running down a maze the wrong way, eating the wrong bit of cheese, unexpectedly dropping dead of myxomatosis. If it's finely calculated the cumulative effect is enormous.


Credits to D.Adams ... R.I.P

Re:Those hyperintelligent pandimensional beings!! (1)

Jarth (666336) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497096)

Hey,

You've neglegted to mention these mice-minds had the earth built for research purposes and thus are actually fooling us rather well into thinking it's us and not . . . them

Re:Those hyperintelligent pandimensional beings!! (1)

YetAnotherHoopyFrood (691469) | more than 11 years ago | (#6501515)

Perhaps their unexpected lunacy is really an attempt to score points in Brockian Ultra Cricket. Or maybe not.

I've seen this (5, Insightful)

KingPrad (518495) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495332)

I saw this with the gerbils I had for years. One would run endlessly on the treadwheel. The other would jump (gerbils can really jump!) and cling to the mesh top of the cage and chew at it. Eventually he actually managed to escape that way and run amok through the house for a bit. We put some stronger wire mesh on and that kept him inside. But I've definitely seen this with my gerbils and have a vague recollection of seeing it at a pet shop once.

It wouldn't surprise me if the mice are insane from lack of stimulation. People get the same way when they're cooped up and take up all sorts of repetitive psychotic behaviors. It's a self-protection method for the brain I believe, keeping itself occupied in some endless task rather than concentrating on its continuously uninteresting environment and going crazy.

I guess that would mean the mice are showing (possibly) insane behavior because the behavior is a a symptom of a deteriorating mind in a last-ditch effort to save itself.

Re:I've seen this (1)

mlush (620447) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497014)

One would run endlessly on the treadwheel.

I hear that if you set up a treadwheel in the woods, normal mice, voles etc will use it!

Perhaps its musine equivilant of hard drugs and the Great Musine Councel is running a War Against Treadwheels/p>

Re:I've seen this (2, Funny)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497519)

hear that if you set up a treadwheel in the woods, normal mice, voles etc will use it!

But if a vole runs on a treadwheel in the woods, and no one is around to see it, is he really crazy?

Re:I've seen this (2, Funny)

PizzaFace (593587) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497493)

People get the same way when they're cooped up and take up all sorts of repetitive psychotic behaviors. It's a self-protection method for the brain I believe, keeping itself occupied in some endless task rather than concentrating on its continuously uninteresting environment and going crazy.
Are you talking about Slashdotters?

Re:I've seen this (1)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 11 years ago | (#6502728)

"It wouldn't surprise me if the mice are insane from lack of stimulation. People get the same way when they're cooped up and take up all sorts of repetitive psychotic behaviors. It's a self-protection method for the brain I believe, keeping itself occupied in some endless task rather than concentrating on its continuously uninteresting environment and going crazy."

So that explains why I have over 2500 posts [slashdot.org] on slashdot ...

How are we any more sane? (4, Insightful)

DJayC (595440) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495333)

On the other side of the cage, a second mouse performs backflips, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.

In my back yard my sister performs flips on a trampoline for up to 60 minutes at a time. My brother jumps into a body of water, only to get out and do it again for up to 45 minutes at a time.

My point is, unless you want to get inside of their head, or ask them why they are doing what they are doing, we can't say it's abnormal behavior. To an "alien in space" (who knows nothing of human "culture") someone jumping on a trampoline, or someone jumping into a pool over and over again may seem pointless and that we are out of our minds. Just a thought. I'm sure the mice are just keeping themselves busy.

The "acid test" of insanity (4, Funny)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495437)

My point is, unless you want to get inside of their head, or ask them why they are doing what they are doing, we can't say it's abnormal behavior. To an "alien in space" (who knows nothing of human "culture") someone jumping on a trampoline, or someone jumping into a pool over and over again may seem pointless and that we are out of our minds. Just a thought. I'm sure the mice are just keeping themselves busy.

Don't human psychiatric workers keep track of how many times their inmates masturbate as a measure of frustration and stress? And don't soldiers who are exposed to heavy enemy fire on a daily basis usually succumb to self-manipulation 10+ times a day?

So are these mice jerking themselves silly or what? Just doing flips over and over isn't a sure sign of going nutso. Maybe they're just staying in shape! But if these cameras are capturing these mice reaching down between their legs a lot (or maybe rubbing their groins against every object in their cage), then I think we have a rock-solid case!

GMD

Re:The "acid test" of insanity (0)

MulluskO (305219) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496207)

And don't soldiers who are exposed to heavy enemy fire on a daily basis usually succumb to self-manipulation 10+ times a day?
You wouldn't happen to have a cite ready, would you?
Also, pr0n [gayimages.net] does not constitute a suitible citation.

Re:The "acid test" of insanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6500271)

Well, being a psychiatric worker, I can tell you we don't do that. We do ask them not to masturbate while we're working with them. Believe me, it's not hard for us to grant them some privacy in this regard. Considering we hover over just about every aspect of their lives, one thing I don't need added to my day is watching the residents masturbate.

Re:How are we any more sane? (5, Interesting)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495590)

Three points of note:

A) These activities consume up to half of the creatures' waking hours, every single day.

B) The affected animals also exhibit other deficiencies and obsessive behaviors.

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a cardboard tube to their cages.

I hardly think that an hour on a trampoline every now and then is even remotely similar.

You talking 'bout mice or slashdot trolls? (5, Funny)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495655)

Hmmm. It's scary how many of these behaviors also apply to slashdot trolls:

A) These activities consume up to half of the creatures' waking hours, every single day.

I'm sure they spend about half their time in front of the computer either reading, posting, or thinking of new offensive, off-topic things to say on slashdot.

B) The affected animals also exhibit other deficiencies and obsessive behaviors.

You mean like hitting "refresh" on the slashdot home page every 1-2 minutes so they can get first post?

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a cardboard tube to their cages.

The entire day of these creatures is wildly altered by something as simple as a fellow slashdotter replying to their message, not realizing it wasn't serious.

GMD

Re:You talking 'bout mice or slashdot trolls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6496951)

So, what you're saying, is that all we need to remove the trolls is purchase a few human sized running wheels? This is the greatest idea I have ever heard, let's give this man a nobel prize, fuck, let's give him all of them.

Re:How are we any more sane? (5, Funny)

ChowyChow (149961) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495819)

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a cardboard tube to their cages.

If you were trapped on an 10x10 meter island with nothing but a coconut tree and did not know of 'civilization' what would you do?

Then, what would you do if we added Natalie Portman to your island?? (hot grits included) Yea, that's what I thought.

"...most breed quite well" (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 11 years ago | (#6501083)

You noted: Then, what would you do if we added Natalie Portman to your island?? (hot grits included) Yea, that's what I thought.

Oddly enough, that's just what the dissenter quoted in the article said:

"There are differences in behavior between mice raised in standard versus enriched housing, but which are 'better' or 'normal' cannot be straightforwardly answered. Mus musculus, the house mouse, has been raised in 'barren' laboratory cages for hundreds of generations, where most breed quite well, and it should at least be considered that this caging condition is, in some sense, their natural habitat."

Following that line of reasoning, the "natural habitat" for the average Slashdotter would be just as you suggested: a 10x10 meter island with a coconut tree, hot grits, and Natalie Portman.

So, where do we sign up [slaid.com] ?

Re:How are we any more sane? (1)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496848)

I work in a avian cognition lab, and we have many pigeons.

Most animals never display this type of behavior. There are a sad few that do - they develop tics from being kept in captivity. I'm not advocating removing animals from their natural environment, but our pigeons are kept quite well.

Our bird (Matisse) constantly pecks at the back-side of his food dish. If you walk in the room, he'll look up at you and stop for a few minutes, and then go back to doing this. He doesn't do it all day, but he does it quite a long while.

This behavior, like I said before, is extremely rare. It's not the widespread problem you make it out to be.

Re:How are we any more sane? (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497409)

Three points of note:

A) These activities consume up to half of the creatures' waking hours, every single day.

B) The affected animals also exhibit other deficiencies and obsessive behaviors.

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a cardboard tube to their cages.


So, what you are saying is the mice are playing Quake? I read nothing about that, I need to go back and reread.

Re:How are we any more sane? (1)

Zhenya (537266) | more than 11 years ago | (#6504877)

This would seem eerily familiar to...an office worker!

A) These activities consume up to half of the creatures' waking hours, every single day.

8 hours, and that's only 9-5. Do mice get weekends? They definitely don't get paid overtime, that's for sure.

B) The affected animals also exhibit other deficiencies and obsessive behaviors.

Like drinking 20 cups of coffee a day? Swivelling the swivel chair, round, and round, and round...Sharpening pencils with the electric sharpener? Or surfing porn? Rage?

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a cardboard tube to their cages.

New coffee machine! There's a CRANE outside! Look at all the pretty colours! Check out that new carpet the boss has! I have a NEW MOUSEMAT!

Or maybe the office workers are the mice. Do they feel like mice? Trapped, like a mouse in a cage? Desperately squeaking for something more stimulating? Waving their little hairy tails recklessly behind them as they chew on the window panes...attacking each other in their madness...

Re:How are we any more sane? (1)

241comp (535228) | more than 11 years ago | (#6507966)

Three points on slashdot readers:

A) The activity of reading Slashdot and hacking code consume up to 1/2 of the creatures' waking hours, every single day.

B) The affected animals also exhibit other deficiencies (such as social abilities) and obsessive behaviors (toward Linux).

C) The entire lifestyle of these creatures is wildly altered by the addition of something as simple as a girlfriend into their cages... er... parents' basement.

I hardly think that a life consumed with reading slashdot and hacking code is even remotely different.

Re:How are we any more sane? (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496359)

To an "Human in space" (who knows nothing of geek "culture") someone coding on a program, or someone compiling over and over again may seem pointless and that we are out of our minds. Just a thought. I'm sure slashdot-ers are just keeping themselves busy.

Cubefarm (4, Funny)

limekiller4 (451497) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495358)

This behavior bears a disturbing resemblance to my former cubefarm cellmates.

Re:Cubefarm (3, Funny)

Alethes (533985) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495444)

meltoast writes "We send employees through a cubicle farm to see their reactions and then take that information and apply it to our knowledge of the human psyche. Well, what if those employees are completely out of their minds? Discover recently ran an article showing that employees kept in a cubicle environment may be crazy. 'In one sequence, an employee climbs the cloth-covered walls of his cubicle, hangs from the false ceiling by his hands while gnawing on the frame, then drops to the floor, only to repeat the process endlessly. On the other side of the room, a second employee makes copies, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.'"

Re:Cubefarm (2, Insightful)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497513)

meltoast writes "We send employees through a cubicle farm to see their reactions and then take that information and apply it to our knowledge of the human psyche. Well, what if those employees are completely out of their minds? Discover recently ran an article showing that employees kept in a cubicle environment may be crazy. 'In one sequence, an employee climbs the cloth-covered walls of his cubicle, hangs from the false ceiling by his hands while gnawing on the frame, then drops to the floor, only to repeat the process endlessly. On the other side of the room, a second employee makes copies, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.'"

Actually, this behavior is often a sign of perfectly sane employees with one absoluly stark raving manager.

Re:Cubefarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6497540)

You mean, that's unusual or obsessive behaviour? Oh, dear ...

Sometimes /. editors make me wonder.... (2, Interesting)

$exyNerdie (683214) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495385)

How some stories can make past their rejection process....but anyways...

When he reviewed the videotape, Würbel saw something reminiscent of home movies made at a psychiatric hospital. In the dark, the mice performed the same useless tasks repeatedly, with such a compulsive persistence that Würbel couldn't help but think something had gone awry in their brains. In one sequence, a mouse climbs the stainless-steel walls of its cage, hangs from the ceiling by its forelegs while gnawing on the bars, then drops to the floor, only to repeat the process endlessly.

Even a kid can tell you that since this was done in the dark and the mouse didn't know that it was "stainless steel" bar, it was probably trying to escape...

MOD THIS TROLL DOWN, PLEASE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6495478)

How some stories can make past their rejection process....but anyways...

The decisions made by our esteemed editors are not for the likes of you to judge, Boy!

Re:Sometimes /. editors make me wonder.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6496362)

Key words: "In one sequence."

And as someone pointed out above, they perform these tasks for hours. IANAPsychologist, but I know that useless behaviors which bear no fruit should eventually be ceased by anything capable of learning.

Re:Sometimes /. editors make me wonder.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6497050)

IANAPsychologist, but I know that useless behaviors which bear no fruit should eventually be ceased by anything capable of learning.

So how long is it going to take you to stop posting to slashdot?

Re:Sometimes /. editors make me wonder.... (2)

Serra (42794) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496654)

How some stories can make past their rejection process....but anyways...

Perhaps the /. editors actually read the article before making a snap judgement about it. It was actually very interesting and contained a lot of other information supporting the argument that lab rats might be psychotic.

Re:Sometimes /. readers make me wonder.... (1)

aug24 (38229) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498212)

How some stories can make past their rejection process....but anyways...

How some people can miss the point of an article so wildly... but anyway...

since this was done in the dark and the mouse didn't know that it was "stainless steel" bar, it was probably trying to escape...

They continued to do this activity for hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week. While you might have a point for that one stereotypic behaviour trait, the same observation doesn't work for mouse back-flipping or running in circles.

The authors are not stupid, they are scientists, and they have considered whether or not that was escape activity and written about it in the article. Please try reading the whole thing before hitting 'post'.

J.

NO!!! (2, Funny)

JDWTopGuy (209256) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495447)

The mice have gone crazy? Oh rats!

Re:NO!!! (2, Funny)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497527)

The mice have gone crazy? Oh rats!

If the mice have gone nuts, what happens to the squirrels? They become cheesy?

Crazy? (3, Funny)

Tyrdium (670229) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495524)

On the other side of the cage, a second mouse performs backflips, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Nah, it was just training for the Olympics...

ZOIT! NARF! (3, Funny)

Glytch (4881) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495739)

I think so, Brain, but who'd want to watch Snow White and the Seven Samurai?

Normal? (3, Insightful)

AllMightyPaul (553038) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495811)

I had a hampster for about two years (it died) and it would spend its entire day either on the wheel or gnawing at the cage trying to get out. It's not psychosis, it's just animals trying to escape from their cages. What he described the mouse doing - hanging from the cage, gnawing, dropping, and doing it all over again - is exactly what my hampster would do in her vain attempt to climb out the hole in the top of our cage. They're almost like velociraptors, testing all the weaknesses in the cage, looking for a way out... except my hampster tested the same weakness over and over again. She wasn't that smart, I don't think.

Re:Normal? (1)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497625)

1) Hamster has no 'p'.
2) Real velociraptors (or whatever dinosaur they based the movie on) didn't live in cages.

(GRAMMAR NAZI IN TRAINING)

Re:Normal? (1)

AllMightyPaul (553038) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497841)

Boy, I sure am glad you corrected me! I feel so stupid! *rolls eyes*

Re:Normal? (2, Insightful)

Iainuki (537456) | more than 11 years ago | (#6500081)

These behaviors may indeed begin as attempts to escape. However, they are not. The animals persist in them even though their situation doesn't change. Imagine if you were locked in a room proportional to your size in the same ratio as these mice are. You, initially, might try to escape by searching the floors, the walls, and the ceiling for openings, panels, locks, or doors. You might do this three or four times to make sure you didn't miss anything on the previous passes. However, the analogy to the behaviors of these mice would be compulsively searching the surfaces of your prison for about eight hours a day (~50% of your waking time) every day for twenty years. That is not normal behavior. Just because animals aren't as smart as humans doesn't mean they're dumb. They can learn how to achieve their goals and also things they shouldn't do. When an animal is pursuing a self-destructive or pointless behavior, ask the same questions you would when you see a human being doing the same. My suspicion is that most lab animals suffer from, among other things, terminal boredom. Mice and rats are inveterate, if timid, explorers. Being locked in an unchanging cage for my entire life would drive me insane; why wouldn't the same happen to a rat?

Re:Normal? (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 11 years ago | (#6501784)

Imagine if you were locked in a room proportional to your size in the same ratio as these mice are. You, initially, might try to escape by searching the floors, the walls, and the ceiling for openings, panels, locks, or doors. You might do this three or four times to make sure you didn't miss anything on the previous passes. However, the analogy to the behaviors of these mice would be compulsively searching the surfaces of your prison for about eight hours a day (~50% of your waking time) every day for twenty years. That is not normal behavior.

Assuming that you nothing better to do, why not keep trying? This may not really be a psychotic behavior, but instead a single mindedness, and unwillingness/inability to give up. As a human, one might become frustrated with the situation and give up, but that is only because we are able to use logic. We would assume that if the bars were steel yesterday, and we couldn't chew through them, and they are still steel today and we still can't chew through them, then they will probably be steel tomorrow, and we won't be able to chew through them. I would question whether mice have the ability to analyze the situation and come to the same conclusion? Sure, they do have some capacity for memory and reasoning, they can be conditioned and trained after all, but is it as advanced as our own? Will a mouse realize that the bars can never be chewed through, no matter how much time he spends at it, or will he simply keep trying? I just wonder if we aren't anthropomophisizing these mice, just a bit, and applying our own attributes to them.
And as for the backflipper, ya, he was probably off his rocker.

They're Pinky and The Brain (5, Funny)

NetFusion (86828) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495844)

They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
One is a genius
The other's insane.
They're laboratory mice
Their genes have been spliced
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain.

Before each night is done
Their plan will be unfurled
By the dawning of the sun
They'll take over the world.

They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
Their twilight campaign
Is easy to explain.
To prove their mousey worth
They'll overthrow the Earth
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Narf!

Re:They're Pinky and The Brain (5, Funny)

tuxedobob (582913) | more than 11 years ago | (#6495905)

Wow. I never thought that would ever be even vaguely on topic.

Re:They're Pinky and The Brain (1)

dacap (177314) | more than 11 years ago | (#6509800)

Well, that explains a lot when combined with Microsoft's extensive usability testing of their software products.

"So what are we doing tonight, Bill?"
"Same thing we do every night, Steve. Try to take over the WORLD!!!"

Abused mice... (4, Insightful)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496138)


Its not uncommon for mice to wheel-- its akin to a kid riding a block. They get rid of excess energy and its fun for them.

ITs also not uncommon for mice to climb cages and knaw on the bars-- they don't know they aren't wood, and this is also fun behaviour.

But Backflips--or in other cases - random jumps are a sign of serious stress. As I understand it, in these laboratory situations they keep dozens of mice in a tiny area-- and mice are a socially sensitive animal. That is to say, they react to overcrowding, have stress, etc.

I think these mice are being abused, and the people doing it should go to hell. Fucking assholes. You're going to experiment on mice, its your responsibility to treat them decently.

Mice are like any common pet-- they react to pain, can be scared, can be stressed and need some private space.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497543)

Its not uncommon for mice to wheel-- its akin to a kid riding a block.

Man, that takes me back... Me and my block, just sitting there, riding around, you know. It was 100% concrete with two large holes in the side, you know, just your typical old cinder block, but boy could it move. Ahhh, good times.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511510)

Bike. You and your Bike. I dunno how it came out "block". Maybe I was going for "bike around the block".

Re:Abused mice... (1)

ravenousbugblatter (682061) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498612)

Until you've actually seen what goes on in a research lab you should keep your uninformed mouth shut. People don't want to give more tax money to scientists anyway, so what do you expect them to do -- house the mice in the fucking ritz on their own dime (which ain't much)? So if you don't like the way it's done, go live in some third world country with no drugs and no benefits learned from the research done on mice and see how much you like it when you're dying of some fucked up disease.

Re:Abused mice... (4, Interesting)

Some Woman (250267) | more than 11 years ago | (#6500670)

what do you expect them to do -- house the mice in the fucking ritz on their own dime (which ain't much)?

There are ways to ensure that your lab animals have a pleasant environment without spending a lot of money. When I worked in the animal facility at my college, they had many small rooms instead of one large room. I don't know how sensitive to overcrowding mice and rats are, but we usually had no more than 40 rats in any given room (1 large or 2 small per cage excepting for nursing mothers).

Another consideration is the level and quality of stimuli. If the animals are kept in an environment with loud noises or bright lights, they might not respond too kindly. Also- were the animals in the article subject to frequent playful human contact (not of the latex glove variety)? Part of my job was to play with the animals so that they wouldn't become attention deprived.

All I know is that I never observed this "psychotic" behavior in our lab rats and mice, so something had to be working.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

ravenousbugblatter (682061) | more than 11 years ago | (#6502319)

While it would certainly be preferable for animal subjects to get extra attention and stimuli, this would be a very difficult task for large universities or research centers, which typically have thousands and thousands of mice. No University would allocate money for a position to "play with the mice" (with the exception probably of work study students in psych departments), not to mention it would take a lot of people to interact with all of the mice on frequent occasions. I have observed psychotic behavior (a memorable occasion was a mouse that ran the exact same path around it's cage over and over, very fast), but very rarely. Of course, I don't check on the mice at night, so who knows what they're up to then. Also, an issue at medical research institutions is contamination - the more people are coming and going out of an environment that is supposed to be sterile will increase the likelihood of bringing in some "bugs" that will get the mice sick and skew experiment results.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511654)


You're contradicting yourself... you advocate overcrowding to "save money" and at the same time worry about contaminating the mice?

Overcrowding causes sick mice-- hell that's the subject of the freaking article!

You're a mouse abuser and you should be subjected to the same abuse. There's no reason for it-- your complaints about "Cost" are the typical excuse to justify laziness.

Its extremely cheap to provide mice with sufficient space and facilities to lead a reasonable life-- and your research results would be more consistent, too!

I'm not of the touchy-feely environmentalist type, on the contrary, I'm a pure capitalist... but I'm starting to think that peta has a case here....

You take on mice, you also take on the moral responsibility to treat them well. Since mice (And other animals) are not sentient, they don't have the right to life and other human rights we enjoy-- but when you take them out of their natural environment, you do take responsibility for their lives.

And frankly, there are very few cases where tortur- er- experimenting on mice are justified. Computer simulation is more effective, and using mice should be the last step.

Not the first one.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 11 years ago | (#6509921)

were the animals in the article subject to frequent playful human contact

You're joking, right? Please god tell me you're fucking joking. They're MICE. They're going to be shot full of some god-awful chemical to see if they grow giant throbbing tumors. Someone is planning to shoot Clairol into their eyes just to see what happens next. They will have their heads shaved and opened wide so we can poke their naked brains with wires. All the play-time in the fucking world isn't going to make them happy, well-adjusted woodland bunnies.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

Some Woman (250267) | more than 11 years ago | (#6510538)

It doesn't do anybody any good to have psychotic lab mice. If they need human contact (once a week per animal was our minimum) in order to retain their sanity, consider that a cost of experimentation. Your data isn't going to be any good if the subjects are under unnecessary stress. (It's been fairly well demonstrated that psychological conditions affect physical health, and anything else you might want to study.)

Re:Abused mice... (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511588)

Damn, but that is a good counter example. 40 rats to a room (if by room you mean 20inch by 20 inch box) is too many, but you could mean a much bigger room.

Typical for these labs is about 40 mice to a 18 inc by 24 inch cage.... and that is far too many... they can't even find ground to stand on some of them, because they more than cover the floor of the cage.

Glad to hear you played with them... I think rats need that more than mice.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

Some Woman (250267) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511750)

By room I mean a closed off room that holds a fraction of the animal cages instead of a large lab area housing all of the animals. It's a little cosier, plus they aren't disturbed at night. Each cage was 8 inches by 12 inches and only held one or two adult rats (or 4 mice).

I think rats need that more than mice.

The rats were actually handled on a schedule (at least once per week per animal) because they need attention more than mice, while people would play with the mice at their convenience.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511564)


Hey, I'm all for scientific researhc-- that is research not funded by tax money. Its that tax money research that produces no drugs, you silly person.

Abusing mice isn't a good way to test drugs, better to treat them decently... this doesn't require the mouse-ritz, just rational caging and a intro-to-veterinary school understanding of hte animal you're fucking observing. That should not be too much to ask.

But, invariably, it is thoe government funded, poorly thought out, mice abusing hellholes that treat them so poorly.

By the way, I HAVE seen what goes on in a research lab. I guess you haven't, but that doesnt' stop you from calling me "uninformed" ... for pointing out mice behaviour.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 11 years ago | (#6499036)


Ahem. I knew a girl who worked in a lab on her way to becoming a doctor. They were working on nerve damage and regeneration.

So to damage the nerves of the mice (or rats...I forget) she would break their spines.

They're lab mice. Their soul purpose for existing is to be experimented on. Giving them cancer, etc is not treating them decently.

Re:Abused mice... (1)

Sgt York (591446) | more than 11 years ago | (#6503654)

Actually, a lone mouse is more stressed than a mouse put with other mice. I'm one of the "fucking assholes" that work with mice, and have for about 7 years. You have obviously never been in an animal facility, and have never even glanced at the guidelines for rodent housing. The only time you have a dozen animals in a small area is when 11 of them are less than weaning age (and it's uncommon for a litter to get that big).

If you have just 5 mice in one cage, you get nasty notes from the care staff. If you leave unweaned animals in there too long, you not only adversely affect your research and hurt the animals you work so hard on, you also get fined.

and need some private space

Don't be so antropomorhic (sp?). Mice hate being alone, they dislike privacy. Look at them in the wild; they live in concentracted packs. In the cages, they get stressed when alone.

As for the behaviours, yes, the mice do act wierd. They overgroom each other to the point of massive hair loss. The males can get very aggressive, seriously hurting or killing each other. They run around the cage for no apparent reason. They dig in the bedding. They chew on the cage bars. They spend a large portion of their day doing this. This contrasts sharply with what they do in the wild, where they groom each other in large groups, males fight for breeding rights, run from predators and to food sources, dig burrows, and chew on things to keep their teeth filed down.

Oh yeah...forgot the sarcasm tags....

Re:Abused mice... (1)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6511537)


God, you should go read a book about mice, you fucking asshole.

Mice need a place to hide. They do not like overcrowding.

When they are kept apart, they do not get more stressed. Yes, when they can smell other mice but not see them-- what you'd do in the poor lab conditions you guys keep-- that would stress them. But being alone isn't inherently stressful.

But you're right about one thing-- you are one of those fucking assholes abusing mice. And so typical of slashdot, you have no morality and so you think nothing of it. Go to hell.

Reminds me of... (3, Funny)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496158)

Hanging from the top of the cage - you mean, like a pull-up?

Turning backflips...

"Now this one's a strange case. She claim a machine from the future, called a Terminator, came back to kill her."
Hiya Doc. How's the knee.

Re:Reminds me of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6498516)

I was thinking the same thing....damn she's hot doing pull-ups in her cell with that crazed look...muahaha

Maybe they're bored out of their little skulls? (4, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496411)

Gnawing on the top of the cage is a lot more fun than gnawing on the sides. Mice have to gnaw on something hard to cut their teeth - otherwise they get too big - rodent teeth grow continuously. As for backflips, well, if you could do backflips all afternoon, and you had nothing better to do, would you or would you not do backflips?

These mice aren't crazy. They just need some entertainment!

...causes cancer in laboratory rats. (5, Funny)

Serra (42794) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496665)

There was a point in the article when it occured to me that the phrase, "Research causes cancer in laboratory rats." was not a joke.

Proper Lab Procedure (4, Insightful)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 11 years ago | (#6496750)

Is to handle each mouse weekly so that handling during experiments doesn't stress them out. I've been in rooms of hundreds of mice caged 3 to a feederbox and sorted by age and sex. The behaviors mentioned are few and far between unless they're beeing inbred or are knock outs that are more prone to psychosis.

boo (2, Funny)

lemody (588908) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497124)

'boo the space hamster' wasn't nuts. only his (her?) owner was!

Re:boo (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 11 years ago | (#6504389)

what about Harvey the Wonder Hamster, and HIS master?

"We send lab mice" - er I don't (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497391)

let the mice go

Freedom! (1)

jlehtira (655619) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497401)

It seems the sense of freedom is important for all animals alike. Humans and mice. I'd react quite strongly to being locked into a room for a long time. Sure I'd try to escape. Sure It'd turn into an "escape ritual" if it'd be hopeless. Sure I'd be digging the tunnel, even though I "knew" It'd never work.

Prison is far better. People can have hobbies and visitors etc etc.

Sure the mice are acting crazy. But does that mean they'd have a permanent mental flaw? I don't think so. I believe the craziness arises from the situation, and will go away if these mice would be let free, roaming in the forests.

I once had three gerbils. Sure they'd be trying to escape whenever they had the chance, but that seemed as a sport. I always kept some cardboard tube, boxes, carrots, branches and whatever there to keep them busy. Changed the "furnishings" every now and then. And let the gerbils run free in one room quite often. Actually even built mazes for them from LEGOs =). They seemed healthy and sound. I miss them.

Animals should be treated properly to get any sane information about their behavior. And, they should be living in their natural environment (which, when different from that of humans, will make the info less useful). I think lab mice or lab-anything is not the way psychology will get good results. It's simply cruel.

This isn't very surprising... (4, Informative)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497471)

and I bet this applies to rats as well (which are, biological, just very big mice). I have some pet rats [darkdust.net] and a big cage, but normally they just run around in my living room... and they really love to run around.

When I have them in their cage for more than, say, three days they grab their bars like some prisoners and stare at me with very sad eyes :-) After some days they can really get depressed.

So now normally mice and rat cages in laboratories are way smaller than mine is (I know since a friend of mine works in a laboratory with rats). And they are not allowed to run around. When my rats get depressed after a few days, then I have no doubt most mice/rats get crazy after some months.

Imagine having nothing more than your living room to walk around, your whole life... oh wait, we geeks know that very well ;-)

Re:This isn't very surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6498526)

Damn you... Now I miss my old rat :(

Re:This isn't very surprising... (1)

JoeGee (85189) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498761)

Petunia, my rat, lives in my computer room. She is my company when I'm working. She's very fond of people, and of my three cats -- she loves chasing them. Your pix of Miriel and Arwen made me grab Petunia and snuggle with her for a few minutes. Rats really can be extraordinary little creatures.

Re:This isn't very surprising... (1)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498910)

Petunia, my rat, lives in my computer room. She is my company when I'm working. She's very fond of people, and of my three cats -- she loves chasing them. Your pix of Miriel and Arwen made me grab Petunia and snuggle with her for a few minutes. Rats really can be extraordinary little creatures.

Yes, they are... the only drawback is their short lifespan. We had to euthanize Miriel about six weeks ago but got two other rats before, so Arwen wouldn't be alone. :-(

But they are so lovely friends that I don't like to miss having rats in my house :-)

Re:This isn't very surprising... (1)

anubi (640541) | more than 11 years ago | (#6501756)

My experience with rodents is that they need to nibble on everything they can sink their teeth into. This includes your electronic stuff. Especially cabling.

And leave their body wastes whenever the spirit moves them.

It just seemed to me that a rodent was a furry little beast with a destructive mauler at one end, and a dispenser of messy fluids and smelly goo at the other end, and incorporated a ingenious little transportation mechanism that could get it into all sorts of areas very difficult for me to get into for repair and/or clean out. [iprimus.com.au]

Needless to say, my experience with rodents ( rats in my garden shed ) was not a good one, and led me to acquire a couple of cats.

Obviously, if you are keeping some in the house on purpose, there is something about rodent psychology I completely missed out on.

If you didn't keep 'em caged, how did you handle the inevitable mess?

Re:This isn't very surprising... (1)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6509511)

My experience with rodents is that they need to nibble on everything they can sink their teeth into. This includes your electronic stuff. Especially cabling.

Yes, they do like cables :-) But they don't like every cable. I haven't figured out why, but they don't touch some cables and like to bite some others. Must be the plastic that's used for them... luckily my cables don't look like the ones from your link, my rats normally don't bite through cables, they just remove the plastic so a bit of tape does the job.

And leave their body wastes whenever the spirit moves them.

Luckily, rats normally don't do that (at least the ones a had and have as pets): they have one place where they drop their waste, and if you know that one and clean it regularly it's no big problem.

Obviously, if you are keeping some in the house on purpose, there is something about rodent psychology I completely missed out on.

Well, rats are very intelligent (for rodents, that is :-) and I find them very cute (my girlfriend as well). Most people don't like their naked tails, but imagine the tail to be furry: it would look almost like a squirrel, and most people find those rather cute :-) They are interesting to watch since they have very visible characters, like dogs: some a brave, others not, some like to cuddle, others not, some like to climb and jumb, etc... and some are very very clever when it comes to stealing your food ;-) And they are normally quite active, which makes them fun to watch... I've never understood why hamsters are so popular. They look quite cute but are rather boring rodents, sleeping even more than I do.

If you didn't keep 'em caged, how did you handle the inevitable mess?

Well, if you mean "how do you keep them from nibbling on your furniture" and stuff: I don't. We knew from the very beginning that our sofa will be eaten, so we bought a cheep one :-) And that's about the most mess they do, luckily. That's like accepting that your cats have to whet their claws one some furniture. But because you really like your pet you live with it.

Tip of the iceberg.. (3, Interesting)

deggy (195861) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497524)

This kind of thing is happening all the time and increasingly so around the world.
A few years ago a lab in the UK admitted that most of it's results were flawed because of some permanent contamination within it's main testing machine, and they had been for several years.
I also remember a case where cells grown in culture and used around the world were discovered to be the wrong kind (liver instead of lung?) after the research had been going on for 10 years or so, wasting billions in money and years of work.
It's unherently unsound doing research on a captive, interbread population. You wouldn't trust it in humans - so why is it OK in animals and cultures?

Re:Tip of the iceberg.. (2, Informative)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497640)

> It's unherently unsound doing research on a
> captive, interbread population. You wouldn't
> trust it in humans - so why is it OK in animals
> and cultures?

Being captive and interbred means you can control
and predict certain factors of the research, which
is pretty essential in research.

If you had 100 randomly born mice and tried to
test a cancer drug on them, probably a very small
number of them would get cancer before they died
at the end of their very, very short lives.

If you engineer 100 mice to be prone to nasty,
guaranteed tumours, you waste less time, and more
importantly, waste less mice :)

Re:Tip of the iceberg.. (1)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 11 years ago | (#6509933)

Besides just being suspiciously vague and unlikely, and being completely unsupported by any citation whatsoever, neither of your examples have even a little bit to do with the article. A lab machine was contaminated? Somebody ordered the wrong kind of cells for ten years running, on a project with, apparently, hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding?

Um, yeah.

And this is related to psycho mice how, again?

Possible solution? (3, Interesting)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497565)

I would think it would be possible to build a plastic maze with slowly shifting walls. Built into the maze would be sensors that shift the walls of the maze when there are no mice in that area. Then you drop all your mice in different areas and there you go, endless halways to run through. The mice don't ever even have to cross paths, so it's just like a cage, but it is never the same twice so there is always something to do. Sometimes mice would be herded into a "play room", sometimes to a "food room", etc. No more crazymice. It would also be neat to watch in action.

Re:Possible solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6498569)

Have you ever seen the movie Cube? Same idea, but using humans and a 3D maze. They all went batty...

Re:Possible solution? (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6500334)

"The Cube", if you recall, also had death traps. I have a suspiscion that there may be a link there.

Re:Possible solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6503325)

Well, what good is a maze without a bunch of death traps???

Re:Possible solution? (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6503441)

Well, what good is a maze without a bunch of death traps???

True, true.

Re:Possible solution? (1)

TCQuad (537187) | more than 11 years ago | (#6499910)

I would think it would be possible to build a plastic maze with slowly shifting walls.

Right, because the way to make sure the cooped-up mice don't go crazy is to literally have the walls closing in on them.

I had two mice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6497657)

that would run really fast, in a really tight circle (like a dog chasing it's tail) for several minutes at a time. Most of the time, it was in the same direction (ie. clockwise, etc.) but sometimes they'd switch directions. Then I fed them to my reptiles. The end.

Only me? (5, Funny)

Mopatop (690958) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497676)

On the other side of the cage, a second mouse performs backflips, one per second, for up to 30 minutes at a time.

Did anyone else think of making a clock with this

Only me? Okay then...

easy fix (3, Funny)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497813)

The mice are just bored.

If you want to give them something to do, just put a housecat in there with them.

QED

good for some, bad for others (4, Insightful)

ravenousbugblatter (682061) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498488)

Having worked in a lab that uses mice for more than 2 years now I found this articel particularly interesting (immunology research). I've noticed odd behavior in our mice before - such as running in circles or pulling their fur out - but it seems to occur most predominantly when mice are housed alone.

It is certainly important to gain more insight into this issue, but it is a very complicated one. The vast majority of researchers are fairly limited in funding, and the costs of maintaining colonies of mice is already very expensive (for example, at my institution caring for about 300-500 mice is around $4000-$5000 per month). While there is probably much validity to Wurbel's argument, it unfortunately becomes a question of cost -- enriched housing conditions would probably be out of the limits of most researchers budgets. Scientists should probably settle on a happy medium - those doing research into behavior should definitely consider these issues; however, they may be less essential for researchers trying to understand the functions of specific genes known to be involved in processes other than neural ones, because the cost would simply be too high.

Re:good for some, bad for others (2, Insightful)

fygment (444210) | more than 11 years ago | (#6507848)

...they may be less essential for researchers trying to understand the functions of specific genes known to be involved in processes other than neural ones ...

However, that assumes the researchers understand all the variables involved. For example, reports keep coming out about the link between stress and depressed immune response. Thus studying a disease on stressed mice would actually skew your results. Gene function may be susceptible to environmental triggers of which stress and madness might be factors. The fact is, we don't know and can't know without very rigorous control over both the experimental procedure and the test subjects. So the cost benefits of housing mice on the cheap may well be mitigated by completely invalid experimental data. And that is no cost saving at all.

Staring at this screen... (2, Funny)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498631)

...all day causes repetitive behaviour.

Oooh! New story on /. The article is too long.
Oooh! New story on /. The article is too long.
Oooh! New story on /. The article is too long.
Oooh! New story on /. The article is too long.
...

The same thing we do every night Pinky... (1)

Libertarian_Geek (691416) | more than 11 years ago | (#6498930)

I think WB must have done a similar study before creating Pinky & The Brain. Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight? The same thing we do every night Pinky... Backflips and chew on the bars!!

Pacing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6499403)

This behavor is also seen in zoo animals, but instead they pace around their surroundings.

personal experience (1)

chloroquine (642737) | more than 11 years ago | (#6499798)

I don't work with mice, but I'd like to point out that back in the old days (a couple of years ago) when I worked at NIH, our living conditions were worse than those of the lab animals. We had less space per animal by a long shot, and the air quality was much worse. Our work conditions weren't regulated by OSHA.

I know I sure saw some behavior that could be characterized as psychotic. There was definite pacing in small circles. Running around and shouting happened frequently. Repetitive behaviors such as pipetting samples into 96 well plates were not unusual.

Now I work at another research institute and while some of the behaviors seen at NIH are common here, it is much more sane. (well, not normal, but better than NIH, fer sure).

If you're interested in lab animal care, there are a large number of sites that detail it to death. The government [nih.gov] is a good place to start, of course.

The surprise is at the bottom of the article... (2, Funny)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 11 years ago | (#6499853)

This is one of the best articles I've read in a long time, and I'm sure I'll have an intelligent comment later. But for now, here's this summary:

mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse
mice mice mice mice mice
mouse

And at the bottom:
© Copyright 2003 The Walt Disney Company

And I fear that I' (2, Funny)

krysith (648105) | more than 11 years ago | (#6500025)

"Don't know the date
Don't know the time
The lab rats are insane
And I fear that I'll be next..."

-The Changelings "Parallax"

Psychologists versus ethologists (2, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6500101)

...which is why there is a cultural divide between two approaches to the study of animal behavior.

The "American psychological tradition," exemplified by Watson, Lashley, B. F. Skinner, etc. emphasizes the study of animals which are almost domesticated for lab use, and bred for genetic uniformity. The studies are done under carefully "controlled" laboratory conditions which are highly unnatural for the animal. The positive aspect of this approach is that it fits well with the scientific method, and the studies are relatively easy to interpret and repeat. A lot of the studies tend to be directed at intelligence and problem-solving.

Unfortunately, the behavior of animals in captivity IS just plain weird. I'd never seen it described as "psychotic" before, but there is a certain Heisenberg-like effect: the effort to put animals in situations where their behavior can be studied with full scientific rigor causes their behavior to change.

The "ethological tradition," exemplified by Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, Donald Griffin, etc. emphasizes the behavior of natural populations of animals in natural or naturalistic settings. It is a biologist's approach rather than a psychologist's, and emphasizes evolutionary relationships. Social aspects are perhaps studied more than problem-solving.

Ethology may be a little softer and less rigorous. In the last decade, the phrase "cognitive ethology" has come into vogue and you will find cognitive ethologists using the word "consciousness" out loud and unafraid.

Obviously my personal sympathies are with the ethologists, but both traditions have yielded valuable scientific results.

Re:Psychologists versus ethologists (1)

arete (170676) | more than 11 years ago | (#6508905)

I have a real difficulty with your use of the phrase "American psychological tradition" there. I'd suggest that Skinner would say people could easily be reinforced and trained if you could find reasonable reinforcers, like their animal counterparts. Of course, this is an affront to everyone's concept of free will.

On the other hand, what I would consider to be the "American psychological tradition" at the moment seems to say that people can't be controlled and therefore that you shouldn't try. So things like phonics are deemed useless by extension.

I certainly think that animal behavior observed in situ using a strong numeric method is better than some obscure case. However, using a bad method makes both of them useless at best and dangerous at worst, and the difficulty of repeating it lends itself especially well to being tainted by the researcher's prejudice.

At least in Skinner's experiments you knew reliably that weird mice like X in Y situation did Z.

Check carefully to make sure the best possible repeatable result isn't "situation strongly tends to evoke the idea of and papers about "K" in researchers from "J" society" I think this is tricky but not impossible to avoid, especially in a natural setting.

Sometimes there is value in such a study, but not science. It might at least give you an idea where to focus some science, for instance. Or it might win you a grant to do that science. : )

What I am really afraid of... (1)

jat2 (557619) | more than 11 years ago | (#6502281)

is that they will become smart and read the "lift latch to open" sign on their cages. Then there will be a little paw sticking out of a cage and opening it. Next thing you know, you'll have a race of intelligent rats and mice living in your rose bush stealing electricity from your house, causing all kinds of trouble for you and your cat Dragon. It's all prophesized here [amazon.com] .

They hope we think their crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6504168)

They hope we think their crazy so we won't kill them with some other medical experiment.

They are not crazy (1)

vuud (678736) | more than 11 years ago | (#6508232)


In another recent experiment that has been going on for decades, companys have taken human beings and placed them in small boxes which surround and cramp them on three sides, while leaving one side and the top open for observation.

No final results have been released, but it seems that they only surf the internet, make personal phone calls and perform friviolus actions of e-mails.

Making the boxes smaller seem to have no effect on the overall productivity of the cubical dwelling humans.
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