A Single Test to Study Social Behavior and Repetitive Self-grooming in Mice

Niraj V Lawande, Ammar L Ujjainwala, Catherine A Christian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to recognize and interact with members of the same species is essential for social communication. Investigating the neural substrates of social interest and recognition may offer insights into the behavioral differences present in disorders affecting social behavior. Assays used to study social interest in rodents include the 3-chamber test, a partition test, and a social interaction test. Here, we present a single protocol that can be used to quantify the level of social interest displayed by mice, the ability to distinguish between different individual mice (social recognition), and the level of repetitive self-grooming displayed. In the first part of the protocol, a social habituation/dishabituation test, the time spent by a test mouse sniffing a stimulus mouse is quantified over 9 trials. In the first 8 interactions, the same stimulus mouse is used repeatedly; on the ninth trial, a novel stimulus mouse is presented. Intact social recognition is indicated by a progressive decrease in the investigation time over trials 1-8, and an increase in trial 9. The interval between each social trial is used to quantify self-grooming, a stereotyped repetitive behavior in mice. We also present a method for randomized, blinded analysis of these behaviors to increase rigor and reproducibility of results. Therefore, this single behavioral test enables ready assessment of phenotypes of both social and repetitive behaviors in an integrated manner in the same animals. This feature can be advantageous in understanding interactions between these behaviors and phenotypes in mouse models with genetic variants associated with autism and other neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric disorders, which are often characterized by these behavioral differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 20 2020


  • Behavior
  • Social recognition
  • Social interest
  • Blinded analysis
  • Grooming
  • Dishabituation
  • Habituation


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