A system for tracking the dynamics of social preference behavior in small rodents

Shai Netser, Shani Haskal, Hen Magalnik, Alex Bizer, Shlomo Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exploring the neurobiological mechanisms of social behavior requires behavioral tests that can be applied to animal models in an unbiased and observer-independent manner. Since the beginning of the millennium, the three-chamber test has been widely used as a standard paradigm to evaluate sociability (social preference) and social novelty preference in small rodents. However, this test suffers from multiple limitations, including its dependence on spatial navigation and negligence of behavioral dynamics. Presented and validated here is a novel experimental system that offers an alternative to the three-chamber test, while also solving some of its caveats. The system requires a simple and affordable experimental apparatus and publicly available open-source analysis system, which automatically measures and analyzes multiple behavioral parameters at individual and population levels. It allows detailed analysis of the behavioral dynamics of small rodents during any social discrimination test. We demonstrate the efficiency of the system in analyzing the dynamics of social behavior during the social preference and social novelty preference tests as performed by adult male mice and rats. Moreover, we validate the ability of the system to reveal modified dynamics of social behavior in rodents following manipulations such as whisker trimming. Thus, the system allows for rigorous investigation of social behavior and dynamics in small rodent models and supports more accurate comparisons between strains, conditions, and treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere60336
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number153
StatePublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Journal of Visualized Experiments.


  • Behavior
  • Behavioral dynamics
  • Behavioral tracking
  • Issue 153
  • Social behavior
  • Social investigation
  • Social novelty preference
  • Social preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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