Laboratory Animal Science

The Laboratory Animal Science group develops and promotes innovative approaches in animal-based research, aiming to improve both the scientific soundness and translational value of animal experiments, and the welfare of laboratory animals. Our research addresses three main topics:

1. Laboratory animal behaviour, health and welfare

2. Laboratory animal anaesthesia

3. Ethics of animal-based research

In studies of behaviour and welfare, we study how animals behave in different housing environments, and how providing resources that animals value affects parameters measured in research. We also use experimental and epidemiological methods to understand early pup mortality in laboratory mouse breeding. Research into anaesthesia investigates how different anaesthetics and their concentrations affect learning, memory and brain morphophysiology in rats and mice, and has resulted in more refined anaesthesia protocols.  In ethics, we ask how the harm-benefit balance of research can be improved.

A common denominator throughout all activities of the group is the principle of the 3Rs (Replacement of animal research with non-animal alternatives, Reduction of animal numbers and Refinement of experiments to improve animal welfare). The 3Rs principle is also central for teaching and outreach. We provide advanced training for researchers using animals through our internationally accredited 2-week course in which we have trained more than 450 researchers since 2005.


We have developed a phenotyping and welfare assessment protocol for transgenic pigs and demonstrated that providing a more species-appropriate cage does not interfere with chronic mycobacteria infection research in mice. Studying perinatal mouse mortality, we have demonstrated that genotype affects mortality, but that contrary to the general belief, primiparous females are not more prone to losing their litter and active pup killing is not seen.

We have evaluated how electroencephalogram-derived parameters can be used to predict depth of anaesthesia. The importance to consider effects of low depth volatile anaesthesia is highlighted by our finding that isoflurane in lower but not higher concentration affects spatial learning and neurodegeneration in adult mice, whereas there are no effects of different concentrations of ketamine alone or combined with medetomidine or midazolam.

In award-winning research into interactions between research practice and ethical concerns in animal-based research, we have proposed measures to improve animal welfare, based on our findings that reports of compliance with animal care guidelines often do not translate into better practice.

Scientifically valid and ethically responsible animal research starts with breeding and rearing the animals. This photo of a litter of young mouse pups comes from one of our ongoing research projects into maternal behaviour and pup survival in laboratory mouse breeding. Photo: Robert Eriksson

Research Team
Selected Publications

Weber EM, Algers B, Hultgren J, Olsson IAS. 2013. Pup mortality in laboratory mice - infanticide or not? Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 55:83 doi:10.1186/1751-0147-55-83

Franco NH , Correia-Neves M , Olsson IAS. 2012 How “Humane” Is Your Endpoint?—Refining the Science-Driven Approach for Termination of Animal Studies of Chronic Infection. PLoS Pathog 8(1): e1002399. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002399

Ribeiro PO, Valentim AM, Rodrigues P, Olsson AI, Antunes LA (2012). Apoptotic neurodegeneration and spatial memory are not affected by sedative and anaesthetics doses of ketamine/medetomidine combinations in adult mice. Br J Anaesth, May; 108(5):807-14.

Silva A, Campos S, Monteiro J, Venâncio C, Costa B, Guedes de Pinho P, Antunes L (2011). Performance of Anesthetic Depth Indexes in Rabbits under Propofol Anesthesia: Prediction Probabilities and Concentration-effect Relations. Anesthesiology, Aug; 115(2):303-314.

Olsson IAS, Costa A, Nobrega C, Roque S and Correia-Neves M. 2010. Environmental enrichment does not compromise the immune response in mice chronically infected with Mycobacterium avium. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology 71: 249-257.

Varga OE, Hansen AK, Sandøe P, Olsson IAS. 2010. Improving transparency and ethical accountability in animal studies. EMBO Reports 11: 500-503.

Silva A, Cardoso-Cruz H, Silva F, Galhardo V, Antunes L (2010). Comparison of anesthetic depth indexes based on thalamocortical local field potentials in rats. Anesthesiology, Feb;112(2):355-63.

Valentim AM, Di Giminiani P, Ribeiro PO, Rodrigues P, Olsson IAS and Antunes LM. 2010. Lower isoflurane concentration affects spatial learning and neurodegeneration in adult mice compared with higher concentrations. Anesthesiology 113:1099-1108.

Olsson IAS, Hansen AK and Sandøe P. 2008. Animal welfare and the refinement of neuroscience research methods – a case study of Huntington’s disease models. Laboratory Animals 42: 277-283.

Valentim AMM, Alves HCC, Olsson IAS and Antunes LMM. 2008. The effects of depth of isoflurane anesthesia on a simple spatial learning task in mice. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science 47: 16-19.