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Automated recording of home cage activity and temperature of individual rats housed in social groups: The Rodent Big Brother project

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • William S. Redfern
  • Karen Tse
  • Claire Grant
  • Amy Keerie
  • David J. Simpson
  • John C. Pedersen
  • Victoria Rimmer
  • Lauren Leslie
  • Stephanie K. Klein
  • Natasha A. Karp
  • Rowland Sillito
  • Agis Chartsias
  • Tim Lukins
  • James Heward
  • Catherine Vickers
  • Kathryn Chapman
  • J. Douglas Armstrong
  • Judith Homberg (Editor)

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0181068
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2017


Measuring the activity and temperature of rats is commonly required in biomedical research. Conventional approaches necessitate single housing, which affects their behavior and wellbeing. We have used a subcutaneous radiofrequency identification (RFID) transponder to measure ambulatory activity and temperature of individual rats when group-housed in conventional, rack-mounted home cages. The transponder location and temperature is detected by a matrix of antennae in a baseplate under the cage. An infrared high-definition camera acquires side-view video of the cage and also enables automated detection of vertical activity. Validation studies showed that baseplate-derived ambulatory activity correlated well with manual tracking and with side-view whole-cage video pixel movement. This technology enables individual behavioral and temperature data to be acquired continuously from group-housed rats in their familiar, home cage environment. We demonstrate its ability to reliably detect naturally occurring behavioral effects, extending beyond the capabilities of routine observational tests and conventional monitoring equipment. It has numerous potential applications including safety pharmacology, toxicology, circadian biology, disease models and drug discovery.

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