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pigs faceCan we use infrared thermography for assessing emtional states in mice? - A comparison betwen stress-induced handling by different technique


Year: 2020

Urša Blenkuš
Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Portugal

Supervisor(s): Dr Nuno Henrique Franco


Stress-induced hyperthermia (SIH) is a physiological response, caused by activation of the HPA axis and changes in cardiovascular activity during stress exposure, causing a rise in body temperature as a consequence of a fight-or-flight response to acute stressors. This change in body temperature can thus be used in laboratory rodents as an indicator of acute stress, or a response from heightened anxiety in anticipation of a stressor. Traditional methods used to measure temperature, such as thermometers and telemetry devices, can be invasive and stressful in themselves, thus having an impact on the research results, while additionally raising welfare concerns. Infrared thermography (IRT) is a promising non-invasive approach for monitoring temperature changes, that has already been used in laboratory science. However, a better understanding of its ability to assess SIH is needed. In this study we compared subcutaneous temperature measured by a small radiotelemetry device and body surface temperature measured with IRT during exposure to handling stress. From our results we confirm previous reports that IRT can be used as a stand-alone method to accurately detect stress exposure in laboratory rodents. Furthermore, our specific approach measuring segmenting tail temperature and rest of the body allows a better understanding of physiological processes during a stress response, as temperature changes in these two different parts of the body can be observed. We were not able to observe different levels of stress caused by different handling techniques, which may result from their effect being diluted in the context of an already stressful environment. This did however raise additional questions about the stressful nature of day-to-day husbandry procedures, such as removing nesting material, anticipation of procedures and short-term social isolation.

We conclude that IRT offers a refined approach to follow temperature variations in laboratory mice as a result of acute stressors either be used as stand-alone methods or provide additional information to current anxiety tests, having the potential to reduce experimental noise caused by more invasive methods of temperature assessment and allow obtaining more data without further disturbance of the animals. We further suggest IRT should be used as a measurement of SIH during common laboratory procedures that laboratory rodents are exposed to, presenting us with a better understanding of the stress and physiological impact these procedures have on the animals.