SOP for Abnormal Behaviors

When studying abnormal behaviors an essential first step is to perform a 24 hour time budget. This allows the investigator to identify points in the day when behaviors of interest are particularly common. Stereotypies often occur at particular times of day, performing a 24 hour time budget allows the identification of a smaller window of time to be observed in more detail for such behaviors.

This page includes links to different standard operating procedures for viewing and recording abnormal behaviors and other helpful links to data sheets and route tracing maps. Please see standard operating procedure for aerial recording, and observational methods for more information.

Standard Operating Procedure for Abnormal Behaviors

Download the excel data sheet and route tracing maps from the links below. Please note that route tracing maps differ based on the type of cage. The type of cage specific to our laboratory and the route tracing maps in the link below is for a Unicage.

The data sheet is formatted to print on 8.5x11. If you want the sheet to start at a different time of day, simply enter that time on the first row of the sheet, and it will reformat accordingly.

Route Tracing Maps

Stereotypy Data Sheet

Time I GA M B BM C J L RT T W Notes

The observed time is split into time slots (1 minute long in this case), and the data sheet provides a row for each timeslot and a column for each behavior. For ease of reference, alternate 5 minute intervals are shaded white or grey. The behaviors are as follows:

  1. The I column is for recording inactive behaviors
  2. The GA column is for recording general activity
  3. The M column is for recording maintenance behaviors
  4. The B column is for recording barbering
  5. The BM column is for recording bar-mouthing
  6. The C column is for recording circling
  7. The J column is for recording jumping
  8. The L column is for recording looping
  9. The RT column is for recording route tracing
  10. The T column is for recording twirling
  11. The W column is for recording wiping

Proceed with 1/0 recording as follows

  1. Watch through each timeslot in turn (an experienced observer can easily do this at 16x normal playback speed).
  2. Only record a behavior if it STARTS within the timeslot. Or, if it PERSISTS throughout the entire timeslot. Record such behaviors with a slash (/) in the appropriate column. Record behaviors which END, but do not begin in a timeslot with a circle (o).
  3. When learning this method it may be easier to pause playback whenever a behavior is observed (or more accurately a new behavior, as each behavior is only scored once per timeslot). However, experienced observers can keep mental note of the categories observed, and good video playback software can be set to automatically pause at the end of each timeslot.
  4. Remember, a timeslot may have several different behaviors happen within it, in which case you will want to mark all the appropriate columns.
  5. The calculations performed on the raw data will depend on the question at hand. If circadian rhythm or time of day is of interest, the 24h  may be split up into smaller sections, with suitable sample size this may be an hour long, though in practice 3h long sub-blocks are often a good compromise between time resolution, sample size, and smoothing of variability. For each time block (or for the whole 24h period, if a simple budget is required). Simply total the number of timeslots in which each behavior was observed.
  6. For some research questions it may be useful to divide these numbers by the ‘time active’ (or simply, the number of timeslots in which anything other than 'inactive' was observed). This is particularly true for agonistic interactions, or stereotypies which only occur when the animal is active (and hence false positives are easily generated by animals with different levels of inactivity).

Singly Housed vs. Group Housed Animals

  1. The methods above are straightforward for singly housed animals.
  2. For group housed animals, you may be interested in encoding different individuals separately (e.g. if you have treatment and control animals in the same cage), in which case simply keep separate data sheets for each animal.
  3. Alternatively, you may be interested in the behavior of the group as a whole. In which case the procedures above are modified differently for 1/0 recording.
    • - For 1/0 recording, simply treat all animals as one unit - if any animal performs a behavior mark it as occurring. It is relatively rare that a research question will lead you to choose this method.
    • - Calculations are then performed as detailed above.