Experimental assessment of mouse sociability using an automated image processing approach

Frency Varghese, Jessica A. Burket, Andrew D. Benson, Stephen I. Deutsch, Christian W. Zemlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mouse is the preferred model organism for testing drugs designed to increase sociability. We present a method to quantify mouse sociability in which the test mouse is placed in a standardized apparatus and relevant behaviors are assessed in three different sessions (called session I, II, and III). The apparatus has three compartments (see Figure 1), the left and right compartments contain an inverted cup which can house a mouse (called “stimulus mouse”). In session I, the test mouse is placed in the cage and its mobility is characterized by the number of transitions made between compartments. In session II, a stimulus mouse is placed under one of the inverted cups and the sociability of the test mouse is quantified by the amounts of time it spends near the cup containing the enclosed stimulus mouse vs. the empty inverted cup. In session III, the inverted cups are removed and both mice interact freely. The sociability of the test mouse in session III is quantified by the number of social approaches it makes toward the stimulus mouse and by the number of times it avoids a social approach by the stimulus mouse. The automated evaluation of the movie detects the nose of the test mouse, which allows the determination of all described sociability measures in session I and II (in session III, approaches are identified automatically but classified manually). To find the nose, the image of an empty cage is digitally subtracted from each frame of the movie and the resulting image is binarized to identify the mouse pixels. The mouse tail is automatically removed and the two most distant points of the remaining mouse are determined; these are close to nose and base of tail. By analyzing the motion of the mouse and using continuity arguments, the nose is identified.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52508
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number111
StatePublished - May 15 2016


  • ASD
  • Automated
  • Behavior
  • High-throughput
  • Issue 111
  • Mouse
  • Screening
  • Sociability
  • Software


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