Creature Comforts

All Illustrations: Tammy Irvine, Rear View Illustrations Researchers are bringing the wild inside their laboratories. Compelled by studies that suggest animals' bodies and minds react to even minor changes in living conditions, scientists are decorating animal cage interiors to mimic the exterior world of nature, thus challenging lab animals to think and move. A large, complex living space outfitted with objects that stimulate animals' mental and physical growth form the ideals of environmen

Hal Cohen
May 4, 2003
All Illustrations: Tammy Irvine, Rear View Illustrations

Researchers are bringing the wild inside their laboratories. Compelled by studies that suggest animals' bodies and minds react to even minor changes in living conditions, scientists are decorating animal cage interiors to mimic the exterior world of nature, thus challenging lab animals to think and move.

A large, complex living space outfitted with objects that stimulate animals' mental and physical growth form the ideals of environmental enrichment (EE)--a field of study started by psychologists in the 1960s, which has now moved mainstream, particularly among neuroscientists. Advocates of EE say that providing multifaceted living conditions is essential to the mental and physical well-being of lab animals and could also influence the validity of experimental results. "You can argue whether your previous results are valid or not," says Vera Baumans, professor of laboratory animal science at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. "At KI we're going...