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Elife. 2016 Oct 12;5. pii: e19532. doi: 10.7554/eLife.19532.

Eco-HAB as a fully automated and ecologically relevant assessment of social impairments in mouse models of autism.

Author information

  • 1Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.
  • 2Center for Theoretical Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.
  • 3Institute of Electronic Systems, Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland.
  • 4Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 5School of Laboratory Medicine, Kwazulu-Natal University Durban, Durban, Republic of South Africa.


Eco-HAB is an open source, RFID-based system for automated measurement and analysis of social preference and in-cohort sociability in mice. The system closely follows murine ethology. It requires no contact between a human experimenter and tested animals, overcoming the confounding factors that lead to irreproducible assessment of murine social behavior between laboratories. In Eco-HAB, group-housed animals live in a spacious, four-compartment apparatus with shadowed areas and narrow tunnels, resembling natural burrows. Eco-HAB allows for assessment of the tendency of mice to voluntarily spend time together in ethologically relevant mouse group sizes. Custom-made software for automated tracking, data extraction, and analysis enables quick evaluation of social impairments. The developed protocols and standardized behavioral measures demonstrate high replicability. Unlike classic three-chambered sociability tests, Eco-HAB provides measurements of spontaneous, ecologically relevant social behaviors in group-housed animals. Results are obtained faster, with less manpower, and without confounding factors.


autism; automated testing; ecological relevance; mouse; mouse models; neuroscience; social behavior; social impairments

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