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Schematic representation of porcine positive reinforcement training for abdominal aortic aneurysm study. Copyright: Dilyana Mangarova. Created with



Stress reduction through clicker training

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Charité 3R promotes the strengthening of animal welfare in pigs in cardiovascular research

Abdominal Aortenaneruysma in Magnetresonanztomographie, Magnetresonanzelastographie and Histologie. Copyrights: Mangarova, Brangsch et al., 2021.
Abdominal Aortenaneruysma in Magnetresonanztomographie, Magnetresonanzelastographie and Histologie. Copyrights: Mangarova, Brangsch et al., 2021.

The aim of a new research project funded by Charité 3R is to minimize the stress of pigs in animal experiments with the help of special training and via the principle of positive reinforcement.  The animals are to be accustomed to various examination methods by means of clicker training and in this way lose their fear. In the project "Quantifying training success with positive reinforcement techniques in laboratory pigs", Dr. Dilyana Mangarova and Dr. Julia Brangsch from the Department of Radiology, together with researchers from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, want to develop a reproducible training plan for pigs in laboratory animal facilities. In this call, the guidelines of the "Good Evaluation Practice" were implemented by the BIH QUEST Center through the support of the project team Incentivation and Indicators. The quality-oriented evaluation process took place anonymously and in a two-step procedure. In the first step, the project applications were evaluated qualitatively in different categories and the final funding decision was made as a second step in a review meeting.

Pigs are widely used for research and treatment of cardiovascular diseases because they are very similar to humans in terms of organ size and anatomy. They are used, for example, to learn specific human medical surgical techniques before they are applied to humans. In the current project, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a pathological enlargement of the abdominal aorta, is being researched using imaging techniques on pigs.

However, pigs often need to be restrained for examination, for example for medical procedures such as medications or for clinical examinations. This can lead to stress reactions that affect the health of the animals. In addition, stress can affect research data as well as reduce reproducibility and thus translational potential.

Clicker training is designed to habituate pigs to different research methods by giving the animal a reward each time it performs a desired behavior. In this way, the pigs learn cooperative behavior and the animal's well-being and tolerance to medical interventions are increased. The training success will also be measured and quantified using physiological parameters in a contactless way via different devices (smart ear tags, cameras, biomonitors). 

The project is funded by the Charité 3R funding line Refinement for the next two years with 96.100 euros.


Charité 3R

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