The happiness project

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 624-627
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6376.624

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  • RE: “Are happy lab animals better for science?”
    • David Rowland, Postdoc, NTNU, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Centre for Neural Compuation
    • Other Contributors:
      • May-Britt Moser, Group leader, NTNU, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation

    Dear Science Magazine,
    Thank you for the article “Are happy lab animals better for science?”. We are delighted that the magazine took up such an important issue. Improving the lives of laboratory animals has always been an issue close to our hearts, and we have made it a core principle of our institute. There is a large amount of hard evidence that enrichment alters the brain at a cellular level and has benefits for the animals’ mental and physical health, including work from M-B Moser as a PhD student (1) that was formative in our institute’s current approach to animal welfare. Aside from the published data, we also draw from our practical day-to-day experience of observing and working with animals. Our enriched animals cover large spaces in short sessions, perform tasks often without being food restricted, and move fluidly through complex, three-dimensional spaces. As an institute studying how animals make decisions and navigate through environments, such calm but adventurous animals are vital to the success of our experiments. As our field, and many others in neuroscience, moves into understanding more complex and naturalistic behaviors(2–4), we believe that happy animals will become indispensable for the success of future experiments.

    Although our interest in animal welfare dates back to the earliest days of the institute, we took a large leap forward when we opened our new lab space in 2012. Most rats are now housed with their siblings in cages that are c...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.