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Animal Behavior Core Faculty Supervisors

bardgetm@medicine.wustl.edu  |   wozniakd@psychiatry.wustl.edu
Phone: 747-4571  |  362-2483
Mail to: Department of Psychiatry
Campus Box  8134

The Animal Behavior Core Facility is coordinated by the Department of Psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine. It receives financial assistance from the Departments of Anesthesiology, Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, as well as from the Washington University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the McDonnell Center for Higher Brain Function.

I. Overview

Washington University is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in biomedical research. Our recent progress in many areas has been founded upon advances in molecular biology and transgenic technology. Specifically, many groups are studying various aspects of gene and protein function through targeted gene replacement in mice. Characterizing the phenotype of these animals often involves examining a multitude of in vitro and in vivo cellular and physiological processes. However, a complete appreciation of gene function often requires rigorous analysis of the animal's behavioral phenotype. The Animal Behavior Core (ABC) facility is a new service intended to offer interested investigators with a time-efficient, cost-effective opportunity to examine the behavioral consequences of transgenic gene expression or gene knockout or knock-in, as well as new pharmaceuticals, experimental brain injury, or maldevelopment in laboratory rodents.


II. Facility operation

A. Personnel

Mark Bardgett and David Wozniak are the faculty supervisors of the ABC facility. Both individuals are physiological psychologists with published experience in behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology with mice and rats. Each has prior experience and is currently conducting studies with transgenic or knockout mice. Anthony Nardi is the primary technician who will perform the following functions: coordination of animal transfers and other matters involving the Department of Comparative Medicine, daily testing of animals, animal handling, animal injections, and data entry.

B. Oversight panel

An oversight panel will meet quarterly to review the performance of the ABC, address any logistic or budgetary problems or concerns raised by facility consumers or by the facility personnel, and make recommendations for future facility directions. This oversight panel will consist of senior faculty members or faculty members whose research programs involve the use of transgenic mice. All decisions made by this committee involving facility operations will be final.

C. Location

The ABC will be located in the basement of the McDonnell Sciences building. Animal housing and husbandry will be provided by the Department of Comparative Medicine (DCM). Mice used in the ABC will need to be housed in this location throughout the duration of testing. This location is not a barrier facility; therefore animals from barrier facilities will not be allowed to return to their original facilities. While the animals can not be returned to their original facility, animals could be used for terminal experiments after behavioral testing is completed.

D. Animal usage

Investigators who wish to use the ABC will need to submit an amendment to their existing animal protocol indicating that they will be using the ABC and citing the ABC protocol number. Investigators will need to contact the DCM staff in order to have their animals transferred to the McDonnell basement animal facility and animal housing per diems will be charged to each investigator's protocol number.

E. Types of services offered

Services will include consultation, animal handling and gentling, behavioral testing, and data management and statistical analysis. There are several ways in which ABC staff will serve the behavioral testing needs of interested investigators:

  1. offer a basic panel of general tests
  2. work with investigator on a specific test already included in our panel
  3. work with investigator on a variation of a specific test already included in our panel
  4. work with investigator to develop specific test not included in current repertoire (e.g., seizure threshold, alcohol preference)
  5. work with investigator to test specific pharmaceuticals, compounds, or drugs in specific assay

In addition to fielding requests for immediate testing of animals, personnel can work with investigators at the beginning stages of their research. This service would involve selection of behavioral tests, selection of background strain, experimental design, and assistance in preparation of proposals for funding. Informal consultations will not involve a fee; however more formal or long-term consultations which require significant amounts of ABC staff time may require financial remuneration.

F. Fees

The goal of the ABC is to provide the Washington University scientific community with a cost-effective opportunity to establish the behavioral consequences of targeted gene replacement, a new pharmaceutical, or a specific experimental manipulation (e.g., brain injury). In order to fulfill that goal, the ABC must be able to sustain its operation through the collection of fees for its services. Every effort will be made to keep the fees as low as possible while maintaining the viability of the ABC.

To this end, individualized contracts will be established with each investigator who wishes to use the facility. It has been our experience that the needs of each investigator vary widely on the basis of the types of tests requested, the number of animals involved, and the types of animals involved. These contracts will be based on the anticipated number of hours required for performing specific tests on a defined number of animals. An hourly fee of $40.00 an hour will be used for all investigators as a base for fees.

To provide an example - if an investigator wanted to examine basal locomotor activity, fear conditioning, and sensitivity to foot shock in 30 mice (15 of wild-type mice and 15 mutants), the amount of time it would take to perform each standard version of these tasks, enter the data, and generate statistical analyses would be: 11 hours for the locomotor test + 13 hours for the fear conditioning test + 11 hours for the shock sensitivity test = 35 hours of testing. The investigator would be charged $40 x 35 = $1400. We anticipate that the costs associated with the testing of 30 mice in the standard battery of 10 tests would be:100 hours to perform all 10 tests x $40.00 an hour = $4000.

G. Timetable for testing

Animals will be allowed one week to acclimate to the ABC animal housing area. Thereafter, animals are typically tested in one test over a one-two week period, depending on the test. Multiple tests may require multiple weeks of testing.

In most cases, the faculty supervisor will ask the investigator for the genotype or experimental status (e.g. lesion, nerve crush, or sham) of each animal. This will allow the faculty supervisor to properly "balance" the order of testing between conditions or genotypes. However, the actual technician performing the testing will be blind to the animal’s genotype or experimental status.

H. Providing behavioral data to investigators

When testing is completed, investigators will be notified. Animals will be available for terminal experiments in the investigator’s labs, but will not be allowed to return to other DCM facilities (check with your facility manager. Data will be available to the investigator in a Microsoft Excel or text format normally within one week of testing completion. Testing data for each behavioral measure will be provided in a coded manner. The code for the data will be provided to investigators and the most appropriate statistical analysis suggested and described. If wanted, the ABC faculty supervisors can perform the data analysis, however, extended amounts of time devoted to this task will be billed to the investigator.

I. Acknowledgement of ABC use

Since the ABC facility is a fee-for-service operation, the faculty supervisors do not necessarily expect to share authorship on papers that utilize data derived at the ABC. However, if the faculty supervisors are asked to provide an extensive interpretation of data or write any portion of a Methods, Data Analysis, or Discussion section, then they will expect to share authorship of the paper. In publications which are not co-authored by the faculty supervisors, we would like to request that such papers acknowledge the use of the Washington University Animal Behavior Core for behavioral testing of animals.

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