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Front Neurosci. 2008 Dec 15;2(2):186-91. doi: 10.3389/neuro.01.029.2008. eCollection 2008 Dec.

Light phase testing of social behaviors: not a problem.

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Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Mental Health Bethesda, MD, USA.


The rich repertoire of mouse social behaviors makes it possible to use mouse models to study neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social deficits. The fact that mice are naturally nocturnal animals raises a critical question of whether behavioral experiments should be strictly conducted in the dark phase and whether light phase testing is a major methodologically mistake. Although mouse social tasks have been performed in both phases in different laboratories, there seems to be no general consensus on whether testing phase is a critical factor or not. A recent study from our group showed remarkably similar social scores obtained from inbred mice tested in the light and the dark phase, providing evidence that light phase testing could yield reliable results as robust as dark phase testing for the sociability test. Here we offer a comprehensive review on mouse social behaviors measured in light and dark phases and explain why it is reasonable to test laboratory mice in experimental social tasks in the light phase.


circadian cycles; inbred mouse strains; light phase testing; nocturnal; social behaviors

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