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Abstract

Laboratory mice are predominantly used for one experiment only, i.e., new mice are ordered or bred for every new experiment. Moreover, most experiments use relatively young mice in the range of late adolescence to early adulthood. As a consequence, little is known about the day-to-day life of adult and aged laboratory mice. Here we present a long-term data set with three consecutive phases conducted with the same male mice over their lifetime in order to shed light on possible long-term effects of repeated cognitive stimulation. One third of the animals was trained by a variety of learning tasks conducted up to an age of 606 days. The mice were housed in four cages with 12 animals per cage; only four mice per cage had to repeatedly solve cognitive tasks for getting access to water using the IntelliCage system. In addition, these learner mice were tested in standard cognitive tests outside their home-cage. The other eight mice served as two control groups living in the same environment but without having to solve tasks for getting access to water. One control group was additionally placed on the test set-ups without having to learn the tasks. Next to the cognitive tasks, we took physiological measures (body mass, resting metabolic rate) and tested for dominance behavior, and attractivity in a female choice experiment. Overall, the mice were under surveillance until they died a natural death, providing a unique data set over the course of virtually their entire lives. Our data showed treatment differences during the first phase of our lifetime data set. Young learner mice showed a higher activity, less growth and resting metabolic rate, and were less attractive for female mice. These effects, however, were not preserved over the long-term. We also did not find differences in dominance or effects on longevity. However, we generated a unique and valuable set of long-term behavioral and physiological data from a single group of male mice and note that our long-term data contribute to a better understanding of the behavioral and physiological processes in male C57Bl/6J mice.</p>