FEB 04, 2016 10:30 AM PST

Stressed out! The consequences of environmentally induced stress on mouse models

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  • Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare, Comparative Pathobiology, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
      Dr. Gaskill is an Assistant professor of Animal Welfare in the college of Veterinary Medicine and part of the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University. She received her BS from Kansas State University and her PhD in animal behavior and well-being from Purdue University. She worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at Charles River, studying the behavior and well-being of laboratory rodents.

      Dr. Gaskill's research program focuses on welfare assessment of laboratory animals. She utilizes natural behavior, physiology, and affective state to assess an animal's overall well-being. She is especially interested how better welfare can translate into better and more robust science. My research interests include: applied ethology, enrichment design and application, improving husbandry techniques, and how environment can affect scientific results when not tailored to the animal's needs and motivations. Additionally she has been involved in developing new and improved types of cognitive testing for mice that are used in psychiatric and neuroscience research. Dr. Gaskill has published in the behavior and well-being, laboratory animal, and experimental psychology literatures. Dr. Gaskill is dedicated to educating the public, investigators, and husbandry staff about the science behind how we house and care for animals in captivity and how this affects laboratory animal welfare.


    The environment has been found to be a major contributor to data variability and many aspects of the laboratory environment are stressful to rodents and do not accurately reflect the human experience. Thermal stress from normal laboratory temperatures reduces immune function, breeding performance, and alters behavior; lighting may be too intense, increasing stress, and lead to immune suppression; noise from ventilators, construction, or ultrasonic noise from monitors can affect breeding performance and stress hormones; cage changing disrupts odor cues that can cause stress and increase aggression and suppress immune function. Chronic uncontrollable stress is widely acknowledged for its negative alterations to physiology, yet, there is a significant gap in the understanding of how the laboratory environment affects mouse physiology and behavior, in particular, as it relates to characteristics of the human disease being modeled. This presentation will provide attendees with information on known causes of stress in common mouse vivariums and how it can be reduced by small changes including environmental enrichment.

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