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Behav Processes. 2010 Mar;83(3):242-6. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.11.008. Epub 2009 Nov 26.

Effects of access to voluntary wheel running on the development of stereotypy.

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Department of Psychiatry and McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Stereotyped motor behaviors are a common consequence of environmental restriction in a wide variety of species. Although environmental enrichment has been shown to substantially reduce stereotypy levels, the various components of enrichment have not been evaluated independently to determine which is responsible for this effect. Exercise, particularly voluntary wheel running, is a promising candidate based on several lines of behavioral and neurobiological evidence. To test the hypothesis that access to wheel running will reduce stereotyped motor behavior, we reared deer mice from weaning with continuous access to either a functional running wheel or a locked wheel. We assessed running behavior throughout this time period and stereotypy levels in a test context at 30 and 45 days post-weaning. We found that exercise did not significantly affect stereotypy level nor was there an association between wheel running and stereotypy. Thus, exercise alone, unlike environmental enrichment, does not prevent the development of stereotypy. These results have important implications for animal welfare.

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