Mice and Music Experiment Mozart
Hard Rock Makes Killer Mice, Teen Finds
MUSIC CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO MOUSE HEALTH
He may have won top regional and state science-fair honors, but probably at least some of his friends aren't talking to him. Sixteen-year-old David Merrill, a student at Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, Va., thought that the loud sounds of hard-rock music must have a bad effect on its devoted fans and came up with a way to test that damage.
Merrill got 72 mice and divided them into three groups: one to test a mouse's response to hard rock, another to the music of Mozart and a control group that wouldn't listen to any music at all, rock or classical.
The young vivisectionist got all the mice accustomed to living in aquariums in his basement, then started playing music 10 hours a day. Merrill put each mouse through a maze three times a week that originally had taken the mice an average of 10 minutes to complete.
Over time, the 24 control-group mice managed to cut about 5 minutes from their maze-completion time. The Mozart-listening mice cut their time back 8-and-a-half minutes.
But the hard-rock mice added 20 minutes to their time, making their average maze-running time 300 percent more than their original average.
Need we say more? Well maybe we do. Merrill told the Associated Press that he'd attempted the experiment the year before, allowing mice in the different groups to live together.
"I had to cut my project short because all the hard-rock mice killed each other," Merrill said. "None of the classical mice did that."
Music | Mice and Music Experiment
Heavy Metal Makes Killer Mice, Teen Finds Washington Times, 29 July 97, page C3
David Merrell, a high school student from Suffolk, VA., won top honors in regional and state science fairs for his experiment involving mice, a maze, and hard-rock music.
After establishing a baseline of about ten minutes for the mice to navigate the maze, David started playing music ten hours a day, then put the mice through the maze three times a week for three weeks. His findings: the control group of mice, which did not listen to music, were able to cut five minutes off their time; the mice that listened to classical music cut 8 1/2 minutes off their time; and the mice that listened to hard-rock music took 20 minutes longer to navigate the maze.
David said, "I had to cut my project short because all the hard-rock mice killed each other... None of the classical mice did that at all."
Do mice succumb to Mozart?
The idea is at least as controversial today as it was when an attention-grabbing 1993 study suggested it: listening to Mozart makes you smarter, at least temporarily. “Continuous exposure to music during the perinatal [before-and-after birth] period enhances learning performance in mice as adults,” concluded the authors of the second, Sachiko Chikahisa and colleagues at Tokushima University in Tokushima, Japan.
They found the improvement was associated in increased levels of a molecule associated with “neural plasticity”—a sort of flexibility in brain circuit wiring, believed to facilitate learning. The molecule, a protein, is called TrkB.
Thus, “at this time I would say there are two independent replications of my original” finding, wrote Rauscher in an email.
- Fosse's little Skinner box is rocking with jazz and classical music. And Fosse can tell the difference: He pulls a chain every time he hears jazz and presses a lever every time he hears classical music! And he gets a little water as a reward. Joanna Dickens trained Fosse to be a discriminating listener as her original experiment in her undergrad psych course at Western Michigan University. Kristen Gaisford was her TA.
- Apparantly they repeated the experiment at the Schiller institute and they didn't kill themselves but they did do the maze worse than before listening to the metal.
- Music (specifically, Mozart) was shown to decrease blood pressure in hypertensive rats in a frequency-dependent manner. i.e. The rats found the music soothing.
Akiyama K, Sutoo D. Effect of different frequencies of music on blood pressure regulation in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Neurosci Lett. 2011 Jan 3;487(1):58-60. Epub 2010 Oct 12.
- Children's Brains are Wired for Music
Male mouse sings a song of love
The ultrasonic chirps emitted by mice resemble birdsong
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2005
From: Pierre Tremblay
Subject: Male mouse sings a song of love
"Love" is an interesting concept and it's the BBC that decided to use the word "love" in reference to the song of the male mouse. If the scientists had done the same, the peer reviewers would have likely detected this to be highly unscientific.
Two related pieces are available at PLoS Biology....
A summary: "Music to Her Ears? Male Mice Sing an Ultrasonic Tune" PDF
and : "Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice" PDF
Timothy E. Holy*, Zhongsheng Guo
I wonder why some (many?) humans have often enough been using the word "love" in association to mating practices of birds, amphibians, insects....? Surely, the rule for life forms that are involved in mating is that the concept of "love" as some humans know it - or "assume it to be" - does not apply.
However, at least in the white western world, it had been very common to refer to human mating as "talking about the birds and the bees" (an expression linkely known to all). But I do not think "love" is related to the mating practices of the bees, and the same likely applies for birds.
Maybe then, as a rule, "love" has also not be related to human mating practices... as maybe suggested by 'little' sayings like "All is fair in love and war."
With respect to "war", the expression "All is fair in love and war" was used as the title of an article about "deception" (http://www.usafa.af.mil/jscope/JSCOPE95/Chomeau95.html):
"Dr. John Chomeau reflects on the status of deception in military operations and the question of when lying is permissible for a member of the military profession. In this aptly titled article, he reflects on where we draw the line, noting that the traditional view is that lying and deception for service people are strictly prohibited by institutional standards except in the extraordinary circumstances of war. He reviews numerous examples of deception, the various categories of deception, and the purpose of deception operations in war. Dr. Chomeau concludes that "the American people expect the military to favor honesty over deceit, but that in cases of clear self-defense or where U.S. forces are at a disadvantage, then a resort to lying and deception is justifiable." The test is that military and political leaders must be prepared tojustify their actions publicly after the fact."
"Can We Trust Research Done with Lab Mice?"
"In the early 1990s, a soft-spoken doctoral candidate at Switzerland's leading university asked a deceptively simple question: What do all those laboratory mice do after the researchers and technicians go home for the night?
The July, 2003 edition of Discover Magazine includes a story, beginning on page 64, headed, "Can We Trust Research Done with Lab Mice? New studies show that animals used in critical experiments may be out of their minds." It is written by Barry Yeoman. The opening paragraph is included on the Discover website:
"In the early 1990s, a soft-spoken doctoral candidate at Switzerland's leading university asked a deceptively simple question: What do all those laboratory mice do after the researchers and technicians go home for the night? It wasn't a frivolous query. In a typical animal research lab, most rodents' lives are spent in shoebox-size enclosures containing food, water, bedding, and nothing else, all stacked from the floor to the ceiling on uniform steel racks. Hanno Würbel, the young animal behaviorist who asked the question, knew that mice living in such barren housing often develop bizarre behaviors, such as turning endless backward somersaults. But because mice are nocturnal animals, most scientists are asleep when the critters are active."
The rest of the article may be available on line once the July issue is no longer on news stands. I will give a brief summary and some quotes below but recommend that those interested in this field pick up the magazine -- the article is lengthy and fascinating.
Wurbel set up a video camera:"When he reviewed the videotape, Wurbel saw something reminiscent of home movies made at a psychiatric hospital. In the dark, the mice performed the same useless tasks repeatedly, with such a compulsive persistence that Wurbel couldn't help but think something had gone awry in their brains. In one sequence, a mouse climbs the stainless steel walls of its cage, hangs from the ceiling by its forelegs while gnawing on the bars, then drops to the floor, only to repeat the process endlessly. On the other side of the cage, a second mouse performs backflips, one per second for up to 30 minutes at a time. Animal behaviorists refer to highly regimented repetitive activities with no apparent purpose as stereotypies. Some of Wurbel's mice exhibited stereotypic behaviors for half of their waking hours."
The stereotypies seem to start out as functional activities, trying to escape the cage, for example, but soon morph into ritualized behaviors.
Wurbel has concluded that much research relies on brain damaged subjects and therefore could lack validity.
We read that a clean cage with nothing else has been the international norm; unless they are studying the effects of enrichment versus impoverishment, most scientists see no reason for changing that. However, Yeoman points to studies conducted back in the 1950's by Mark Rosenweig at Berkeley, which found that animals' enzyme levels were affected by their environments.
Regarding the effect on biomedical testing:
"In the 47 years since Rosenweig reported his pioneering work, scientists have come up with more anecdotal evidence that keeping animals under different conditions can dramatically alter research outcomes. For example, lead contaminated drinking water damages the brains of impoverished mice but not the enriched ones. Rats can tolerate 60 times more uranium if they're allowed time to acclimate to new cages, and even dim light in the lab at night speeds up tumor growth by inhibiting production of the hormone melatonin."
Fifty years seems a long time to have this sort of information without acting on it. But scientists whose grant incomes are not directly affected by the validity of their experiments are reluctant to admit that psychological damage affects outcome. Wurbel, however, says, "The point that the environment might change behavior but it doesn't change biology is ridiculous. Every behavior has a physiological background."
Wurbel would like to see "a time where we will have natural-like, although heavily managed, populations of rats or mice, maybe in big enclosures, representing whole populations."
The article follows this point and ends with an interesting quote from Würbel: " But you know what the problem is with this? If we get to the stage where we think we need to treat the animals this way, experimenting on them will probably become impossible -- because that would mean they would almost achieve the same status that we have."
I worry that the article gives the impression that mouse madness is the only factor making their use scientifically unsound. Those interested in the range of factors which make animal testing an increasingly outdated form of study will find extensive information on the topic at:http://www.CureDisease.com
Nor will more interesting environments solve the ethical issues.
Yet, the article is a positive step, as it calls into question the validity of laboratory experiments, and also because it portrays laboratory animal suffering in a way that is unusual in the mainstream media. It makes it clear that anesthesia and painkillers (both shockingly under-used) do not solve the animal welfare issues.
Yeoman's article stresses scientific validity; he states that it is of greater concern than the also important issue of animal welfare. However, immediately following Yeoman's article is one by David Berreby headed " Saving Private Squeaky." Berreby notes that different rats, who appear identical, will have radically different rates of learning, and behave differently in experimental situations. His article refers to the "reward" he realized a group of rats with whom he was doing maze work were going to get for their efforts - euthanization. It focuses on his choice to save his favorite, the smartest, but one realizes that the rat's less favored
cage-mates fared badly. The article is touching, and a nice balance to Yeoman's piece which concentrates almost exclusively on science.
The two excellent articles open the door for letters to the editor on related issues that were not addressed. One issue is the scientific validity of testing on rodents, regardless of their living conditions. Another is the question of our right as a species to do as we please with those of other species, just because we can. Publications are generally far more likely to publish positive letters, but one can make one's points in the context of an appreciative letter to the editor.
Ignoring stress in lab animals could mar research
MEDICAL and biological research relies heavily on studies of lab animals such as mice and rats. These are often inbred strains, and are kept in "standard" cages so that different groups can be compared - animals missing a particular gene are compared with those that don't, for example, or animals given a drug with those that
But there is one confounding factor for which researchers appear to have a blind spot - stress. Scientists seem to think that as long as animals are kept in roughly comparable conditions, experiments on them will produce meaningful results. In fact evidence is mounting
that the standard lab conditions are stressful enough to affect the animals' physiology, and enough so to swamp the effects of an experimental perturbation or drug.
Comparing results where stress isn't taken into account is therefore meaningless. What's more, even if all animals were kept under equally stressful conditions, the results of experiments may still bear little or no relation to those that would be obtained with healthy animals.
Anyone who has had pet mice and rats knows how much they love to climb, burrow and run around in wheels. Yet lab rodents, unless they are being used in behavioural studies, are usually housed in small empty cages, with bedding if they are lucky. Studies show that rodents housed in standard cages in busy facilities show signs of emotional stress, such as excessive grooming, aggression and
stereotypic behaviours such as jumping repeatedly or gnawing at their bars (Trends in Neurosciences, vol 24, p 207).
Males in particular will spend much of their time fighting if kept in these conditions. However, if they are given a couple of simple diversions, such as a perspex tube and a shelf, the fighting disappears. If you ask investigators about their rodents' behaviour they will usually answer, "Oh no, my rats don't fight." But most tests are done during the day, when these nocturnal animals are fast asleep, so researchers are unlikely to find them fighting.
The problem is more than behavioural; we know that the animals' physiology is affected. Rats housed in such conditions show an inflammatory response in their intestines accompanied by leaky blood vessels (Microcirculation, vol 5, p 299 and vol 6, p 189). As a
result, the gut's defence barrier breaks down, leading to chronic inflammatory conditions such as "leaky gut". This inflammation adds uncontrolled variables to experiments on these animals, confounding the data. Moreover, we now know that mice display empathy (Science, vol 312, p 1967), so stress experienced by one animal can affect
We are also starting to realise that noise is a major source of stress for lab animals. Animal facilities can be incredibly loud places, with sound levels often reaching between 90 and 100 decibels (Physiology and Behaviour, vol 53, p 1067). To put this into context, 95 dB is comparable to a subway train, and a jackhammer is about 110 dB. Labs are much quieter at weekends, suggesting that much of the noise is caused by researchers as they work.
Recent studies show that noise affects the animals' physiology. For example, noise levels of 90 dB increase rodent heart rate and blood pressure (Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, vol 9, p 179), cause leaky gut and damage small blood vessels (Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, vol 45, p 74 and vol 46, p 58). Yet many scientists involved in animal research are unaware that loud noise might affect their results (JAALAS, vol 46, p 38).
For anyone still not convinced, we believe another recent study clinches the argument. It involves one of the most clear-cut types of animal study, comparing healthy animals with those that have a genetic mutation. In this case, mice missing the gene for a protein called fibulin-4 were found to have defects in their aortas. Yet when the mice were housed in relatively large cages with a shelf, tunnel and wheel, rather than in small, empty cages, those defects
almost disappeared (PLoS ONE, vol 2, e229). It shows that lab animals' environmental conditions can completely change the results of a genetic study. This too seems to have fallen on deaf ears since it was published in February.
More work is needed, of course, and you could argue that in some cases studies on animals with different levels of stress might be necessary to tease out the subtle effects of particular mutations. Even so, the overall message is clear: stress is significantly affecting the physiology of lab animals and the results we obtain from them.
There are already animal welfare grounds for reducing the stress that lab animals experience, but now there is also a strong scientific argument that researchers need to change their mindset. If we are going to use rodents as models to test drugs or provide us with reliable scientific data, we must give the emotional state of these animals serious consideration.