creating a
healthier future

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


Selected Publications

Guilherme Fernandes J., Olsson I.A.S., Vieira de Castro A.C.,
Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare?: A literature review. Applied Animal Behaviour Science196:1-12, 2017. [Journal: Review] [CI: 39] [IF: 1,5]
DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.001 SCOPUS: 85026437966

Félix L.M., Antunes L.M., Coimbra A.M., Valentim A.M.,
Behavioral alterations of zebrafish larvae after early embryonic exposure to ketamine. Psychopharmacology234(4):549-558, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 38] [IF: 3,2]
DOI: 10.1007/s00213-016-4491-7 SCOPUS: 85001555685

Valentim A.M., van Eeden F.J., Strähle U., Olsson I.A.S.,
Euthanizing zebrafish legally in Europe: Are the approved methods of euthanizing zebrafish appropriate to research reality and animal welfare?. EMBO Reports17(12):1688-1689, 2016. [Journal: Note] [CI: 20] [IF: 8,6]
DOI: 10.15252/embr.201643153 SCOPUS: 84995451033

Olsson I.A.S., da Silva S.P., Townend D., Sandøe P.,
Protecting animals and enabling research in the European Union: An overview of development and implementation of directive 2010/63/EU. ILAR Journal57(3):347-357, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 45] [IF: 2,6]
DOI: 10.1093/ilar/ilw029 SCOPUS: 85026451072

Félix L.M., Serafim C., Martins M.J., Valentim A.M., Antunes L.M., Matos M., Coimbra A.M.,
Morphological and behavioral responses of zebrafish after 24αh of ketamine embryonic exposure. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology321:27-36, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 40] [IF: 3,6]
DOI: 10.1016/j.taap.2017.02.013 SCOPUS: 85013752088

Valentim A.M., Félix L.M., Carvalho L., Diniz E., Antunes L.M.,
A new anaesthetic protocol for adult zebrafish (Danio rerio): Propofol combined with lidocaine. PLoS ONE11(1):, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 45] [IF: 2,8]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147747 SCOPUS: 84959205162

Weber E.M., Hultgren J., Algers B., Olsson I.A.S.,
Do laboratory mouse females that lose their litters behave differently around parturition?. PLoS ONE11(8):, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 13] [IF: 2,8]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161238 SCOPUS: 84990221154

Valentim A.M., Guedes S.R., Pereira A.M., Antunes L.M.,
Euthanasia using gaseous agents in laboratory rodents. Laboratory Animals50(4):241-253, 2016. [Journal: Review] [CI: 25] [IF: 1,5]
DOI: 10.1177/0023677215618618 SCOPUS: 84986557845

Martins T., Valentim A.M., Pereira N., Antunes L.M.,
Anaesthesia and analgesia in laboratory adult zebrafish: A question of refinement. Laboratory Animals50(6):476-488, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 36] [IF: 1,5]
DOI: 10.1177/0023677216670686 SCOPUS: 85014491998

Franco N.H., Correia-Neves M., Olsson I.A.S.,
How "humane" is your endpoint?-refining the science-driven approach for termination of animal studies of chronic infection. PLoS Pathogens8(1):, 2012. [Journal: Article] [CI: 37] [IF: 8,1]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002399 SCOPUS: 84857461972

Ongoing Projects

Neonatal vitality in laboratory mouse breeding
Reference: PTDC/CVT-CVT/3248/2021
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-JAN-22 to 31-DEC-24
Developing non-terminal methods to assess cortisol in adult zebrafish
Reference: ART 3Rs Award 2023 - ZMATRIX
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: Animal Research Tomorrow
From 01-APR-23 to 31-DEC-24