Temporal dissociation of phencyclidine-induced locomotor and social alterations in rats using an automated homecage monitoring system - implications for the 3Rs and preclinical drug discovery

Emma J Mitchell, Ros R Brett, J Douglas Armstrong , Rowland R Sillito, Judith A Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Rodent behavioural assays are widely used to delineate the mechanisms of psychiatric disorders and predict the efficacy of drug candidates. Conventional behavioural paradigms are restricted to short time windows and involve transferring animals from the homecage to unfamiliar apparatus which induces stress. Additionally, factors including environmental perturbations, handling and the presence of an experimenter can impact behaviour and confound data interpretation. To improve welfare and reproducibility these issues must be resolved. Automated homecage monitoring offers a more ethologically relevant approach with reduced experimenter bias.
Aim: To evaluate the effectiveness of an automated homecage system at detecting locomotor and social alterations induced by phencyclidine (PCP) in group-housed rats. PCP is an NMDA receptor antagonist commonly utilised to model aspects of schizophrenia.
Methods: Rats housed in groups of 3 were implanted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Each homecage was placed over a RFID reader baseplate for the automated monitoring of the social and locomotor activity of each individual rat. For all rats, we acquired homecage data for 24 h following administration of both saline and PCP (2.5 mg/kg).
Results: PCP resulted in significantly increased distance travelled from 15 to 60 min post injection. Furthermore, PCP significantly enhanced time spent isolated from cage-mates and this asociality lasted from 60 to 105 min post treatment.
Conclusions: Unlike conventional assays, in-cage monitoring captures the temporal duration of drug effects on multiple behaviours in the same group of animals. This approach could benefit psychiatric preclinical drug discovery though improved welfare and increased between-laboratory replicability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-715
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number7
Early online date21 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • home cage
  • welfare
  • locomotor activity
  • social interaction
  • refinement
  • PCP
  • schizophrenia
  • autism
  • schizophrenia treatments

Cite this