WaterR: A tool for better management and monitoring of rodent fluid intake

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Physiology and Pharmacology


Understanding how signals in the brain guide our behaviour is vital to help combat many neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. These kinds of experiments normally require motivational drive to help the animals learn a behavioural task (much like training a dog) and liquid treats are one of the best motivators to use. However, it is difficult to ensure that the animal is just thirsty enough, without putting them in a state where they are unnecessarily thirsty. To improve these procedures, we have developed a low-cost device for automatically dispensing just the right amounts of water. In this project we will work with groups across the UK to trial improvements to the device to make sure it can easily be used in any lab. We will then publish the plans online for making the device and we will hold workshops to tell others about it, to make sure as many labs as possible start using this approach.

Technical Summary

Most rodent behavioural experiments require motivation to encourage animals to learn and perform experimental tasks. In many cases, it is now recognised that motivation driven by restricting access to fluids is the most suitable approach. However, ensuring that motivation is sufficient to meet the scientific aims, without exposing animals to unnecessarily high levels of thirst is difficult and often impractical. Automating the process therefore offers the opportunity to significantly refine current practice. To meet this need, we have developed and established a low-cost device (called WaterR) for automated home-cage water delivery for rodents. The device is simple to make in the lab and can be easily adapted to meet different experimental needs.
This project will refine fluid control practice by enabling the widespread adoption of the automated water delivery device we have developed. To achieve this, we have partnered with ambassador laboratories from four key hubs of in vivo research across the UK (Bristol, Oxford, UCL, and Edinburgh). We will work with these groups to adapt WaterR to make it readily accessible for any group to adopt. We will then produce and release the plans online and run workshops to publicise the device and aid adoption.


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