Stability of inbred mouse strain differences in behavior and brain size between laboratories and across decades

Douglas Wahlsten, Alexander Bachmanov, Deborah A. Finn, John C. Crabbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Scopus citations


If we conduct the same experiment in two laboratories or repeat a classical study many years later, will we obtain the same results? Recent research with mice in neural and behavioral genetics yielded different results in different laboratories for certain phenotypes, and these findings suggested to some researchers that behavior may be too unstable for fine-scale genetic analysis. Here we expand the range of data on this question to additional laboratories and phenotypes, and, for the first time in this field, we formally compare recent data with experiments conducted 30-50 years ago. For ethanol preference and locomotor activity, strain differences have been highly stable over a period of 40-50 years, and most strain correlations are in the range of r = 0.85-0.98, as high as or higher than for brain weight. For anxiety-related behavior on the elevated plus maze, on the other hand, strain means often differ dramatically across laboratories or even when the same laboratory is moved to another site within a university. When a wide range of phenotypes is considered, no inbred strain appears to be exceptionally stable or labile across laboratories in any general sense, and there is no tendency to observe higher correlations among studies done more recently. Phenotypic drift over decades for most of the behaviors examined appears to be minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16364-16369
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Oct 31 2006


  • Agonistic behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Ethanol preference
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Locomotor activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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