Behavioral tests of animals in a controlled experimental setting provide a valuable tool to advance understanding of genotype-phenotype relations, and to study the effects of genetic and environmental manipulations. To optimally benefit from the increasing numbers of genetically engineered mice, reliable high-throughput methods for comprehensive behavioral phenotyping of mice lines have become a necessity. Here, we describe the development and validation of an anxiety test, the light spot test, that allows for unsupervised, automated, high-throughput testing of mice in a home-cage system. This automated behavioral test circumvents bias introduced by pretest handling, and enables recording both baseline behavior and the behavioral test response over a prolonged period of time. We demonstrate that the light spot test induces a behavioral response in C57BL/6J mice. This behavior reverts to baseline when the aversive stimulus is switched off, and is blunted by treatment with the anxiolytic drug Diazepam, demonstrating predictive validity of the assay, and indicating that the observed behavioral response has a significant anxiety component. Also, we investigated the effectiveness of the light spot test as part of sequential testing for different behavioral aspects in the home-cage. Two learning tests, administered prior to the light spot test, affected the light spot test parameters. The light spot test is a novel, automated assay for anxiety-related high-throughput testing of mice in an automated home-cage environment, allowing for both comprehensive behavioral phenotyping of mice, and rapid screening of pharmacological compounds.
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