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Lab mice fear men but not women, and that's a big problem for science
TheVerge.com ^ | April 28, 2014 | Arielle Duhaime-Ross

Posted on 04/28/2014 11:12:50 AM PDT by Scoutmaster

The history of science is one chock-full of mice and men. Historically, biological and medical research has largely depended on rodents, which provide scientists with everything from cells and organs to behavioral data. That's why a new study in which researchers found that mice actually fear men, but not women, has the potential to be so disruptive. It might mean that a number of researchers have published mouse studies in which their results reflect this male-induced stress effect — and they know nothing about it.

"People have not paid attention to this in the entire history of scientific research of animals," says Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University and lead author of the study. "I think that it may have confounded, to whatever degree, some very large subset of existing research." Moreover, the effect probably isn't limited to behavioral studies, because the organs and cells that are used in medical research, such as in cancer studies, often originate in rodents. "If you're doing a liver cell study, the cells came from a rat that was sacrificed either by a man or a woman," Mogil says. As a result, "its stress levels would be in very different states." This, he says, could have an effect on the functioning of the liver cell in that later experiment.

In the study, published today in Nature Methods, researchers used the "mouse grimace scale" to measure pain responses in rodents exposed to men, women, or their respective smells. Pain is a proxy for stress because stress can, to a large extent, numb pain. So when the mice were confronted with the smell of men, they experienced less pain, whereas the presence of women — or their smell, Mogil says — "did nothing at all."

This might seem like a positive effect, but think of it this way: when athletes get hurt during a stressful game, they often don't feel the injury right away, and they keep pushing. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is supposed to keep them alive by helping them focus on something other than pain. Yet in reality, it mostly just ends up making the injury worse.

But pain wasn't the only indicator of stress in this study. Further experiments showed that the rodents also had increased body temperatures and levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, in response to the smell of men. And the effect wasn't just prompted by human males, either. Rats and mice "are afraid of the smell of males of any species," Mogil says, because the mice in this study reacted to the smell of male dogs, guinea pigs, and cats as well.

The researchers think that mice react this way because of competition, and not predation. Male mice are territorial, Mogil says, even when it comes to females entering their domain. They also compete with males for mating opportunities, "so it's probably a little bit evolutionarily adaptive to have this effect until you can determine that a male that's around doesn't actually mean you any harm," he says. In all likelihood, mice just haven't developed a way to discriminate between the smell of a male mouse and the smell of other male mammals, so men also elicit a fear response.

Interestingly, the stress response isn't only dependent on the sex of an intruder, but also on the circumstances of his or her approach. "If you put a male-worn T-shirt and a female-worn T-shirt in the same room, the female T-shirt counteracts the effect of a male T-shirt." This, Mogil says, indicates that solitary males represent the real threat. "A lone male is up to no good — either hunting or defending his territory." Fortunately, the male-induced stress effect becomes less pronounced over time, eventually disappearing altogether. This, and the fact that women counteract the effect, means there are a number of ways that researchers could prevent it from showing up in data.

One option, Mogil says jokingly, "is fire all the men — or have them chaperoned by a woman." A more realistic approach, however, would be to have male experimenter sit in a room for 45 minutes before collecting data. That makes the problem go away. But the Mogil doubts that anyone will want to do that because "it's just too boring."

Instead, Mogil hopes that his research — and other studies like it — will prompt researchers to report the gender of the experimenter in their publications. "You don't have to go back very far to see studies where people didn't think the strain of mouse mattered or the sex of the mouse mattered," Mogil says. "But these things all matter," and could be addressed in statistical analyses.

For now, Mogil is looking forward to hearing from fellow researchers who might now have an answer for unusual results. "I expect to hear stories, to hear people telling me that this sort of explains mysteries about experimenters not replicating each other, or having effects and then losing them," Mogil says. Because studies are so large these days, the graduate students who start them often don't see them through to completion, Mogil explains. So, women and men often end up taking on the same work in succession. Whether scientists will want to go back and check if their results were tainted by a male-induced stress response, however, is anybody's guess. As Mogil puts it, "we will have to see."


TOPICS: Science
KEYWORDS: mice; mouse; research; riarchies
Offered with no agenda whatsoever, but I did roll my eyes. Someone educate me.

Nature/Methods is a peer-reviewed pubication. The study, Olfactory exposure to males, including men, causes stress and related analgesia in rodents, is available for rental or purchase for anyone with ReadCube access.

My favorite comment thread, which I believe is satire based upon other comments of those involved, is:

"Obviously these mice have been socialised to fear men. Nobody is safe from the patriarchy. Not even mice."

"And yet, women do them just as much harm as the men. They’re afraid of the patriarchy when they should be afraid of the hierarchy."

"I don’t think the patriarchy socialises life forms to fear men. You are probably mistaking them for another riarchy."

1 posted on 04/28/2014 11:12:50 AM PDT by Scoutmaster
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To: Scoutmaster

Are these white mice?


2 posted on 04/28/2014 11:13:49 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: Scoutmaster

“I don’t think the patriarchy socialises life forms to fear men. You are probably mistaking them for another riarchy.”

However, I am not mistaken when I describe this “research” as “Mickey Mouse”.


3 posted on 04/28/2014 11:17:13 AM PDT by GladesGuru (Islam Delenda Est - because of what Islam is and because of what Muslims do.)
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To: Scoutmaster
Replace the lab rats with lawyers. Three reasons:
4 posted on 04/28/2014 11:18:16 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: Scoutmaster
Replace the lab rats with lawyers. Three reasons:
5 posted on 04/28/2014 11:18:16 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: Scoutmaster

“A lone male is up to no good — either hunting or defending his territory.”

Well, yeah. So?


6 posted on 04/28/2014 11:20:24 AM PDT by Psalm 144 (FIGHT! FIGHT! SEVERE CONSERVATIVE AND THE WILD RIGHT!)
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To: Scoutmaster
My Dad had lab mice and, thrifty guy that he was, refused to do with them what was usually done when their job was finished. (You don't want to know or PETA would have a fit).

Instead, he brought them home for cat treats. The cats had a blast. The mice, not so much.

7 posted on 04/28/2014 11:23:01 AM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Scoutmaster
mice fear men but not women

And women, not men, fear mice.

Or is it women fear mice but not men? Can never get that straight.

8 posted on 04/28/2014 11:23:38 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: DannyTN
Replace the lab rats with lawyers.

It won't work. The reason we use rats is because they resemble human beings.

9 posted on 04/28/2014 11:24:20 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

LOL


10 posted on 04/28/2014 11:25:00 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: Vigilanteman

My Dad WAS a lab mouse and he brought ME home for cat treats. The cats had a blast. For me, not so much. Still in recovery.


11 posted on 04/28/2014 11:26:03 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: Scoutmaster

If you really want to strike fear in mice let a lesbian couple adopt them.


12 posted on 04/28/2014 11:26:50 AM PDT by shoff (Vote Democratic it beats thinking!)
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To: Scoutmaster

Do the mice behave the same way toward heterosexual as toward homosexual male humans?


13 posted on 04/28/2014 11:27:13 AM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: All

You know I post articles like these solely for the comments, don’t you? And FRiends, you never fail me.


14 posted on 04/28/2014 11:29:27 AM PDT by Scoutmaster (I'd rather be at Philmont)
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To: Verginius Rufus

And what about the gay mice? Has anyone ever studied them? What about the lesbian transgendered cisphobic mice? I’m starting a movement, dang it. I smell money.


15 posted on 04/28/2014 11:32:39 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Psalm 144

“A lone male is up to no good — either hunting or defending his territory.”

Well, yeah. So?


HAH! Exactly my response. :-)


16 posted on 04/28/2014 11:35:05 AM PDT by cuban leaf
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To: Billthedrill

I don’t know about gay mice but gay men scare the crap out of gerbils. .


17 posted on 04/28/2014 11:37:17 AM PDT by tophat9000 (Are we headed to a Cracker Slacker War?)
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To: tophat9000

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTrOb8zyrZk


18 posted on 04/28/2014 11:44:06 AM PDT by Norm Lenhart (How's that 'lesser evil' workin' out for ya?)
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To: Scoutmaster

It is apparent, the mice never came face to face with a menopausal female; She is something to frighten you!!


19 posted on 04/28/2014 11:52:57 AM PDT by V K Lee
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To: MrB
Quote: Are these white mice?

</sarc>

20 posted on 04/28/2014 11:53:07 AM PDT by A Formerly Proud Canadian (I once was blind but now I see...)
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To: shoff

Not a fair test. One half of a lesbian couple generally has more testosterone than wimpy male scientists.


21 posted on 04/28/2014 12:04:49 PM PDT by afsnco
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To: Scoutmaster

men don’t scream and get up on lab chairs when they see a mouse running around.

be clear I mean “men” not any old “genetic male”.


22 posted on 04/28/2014 12:05:21 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: Scoutmaster
LOL!

The plentiful cottontails on our property are considerably more skittish since I began appearing on the back deck with my often fatal, pellet gun.

Used to be they didn't much care about my presence.

23 posted on 04/28/2014 12:10:18 PM PDT by G Larry (In the beginning there was "Right" and "Wrong" and we've been compromising in the "Wrong" direction)
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To: Vigilanteman

Sounds to me like their fate was the same in either regard. No?


24 posted on 04/28/2014 12:30:29 PM PDT by FamiliarFace
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To: MrB

These are mousogynists.


25 posted on 04/28/2014 12:50:44 PM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: MrEdd

I didn’t know they gave mousages!


26 posted on 04/28/2014 12:52:20 PM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: Psalm 144

99% of the time all I want is to be left alone. Fat chance. All I would like is to be left alone to play with the cameras, fool with my old jeep collection, and old TV shows.

I’m one of those people who are members of things but never interested enough to go to them.


27 posted on 04/28/2014 12:52:28 PM PDT by wally_bert (There are no winners in a game of losers. I'm Tommy Joyce, welcome to the Oriental Lounge.)
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To: MrB

Its why manbearpig got so exited about gerbil warming.
I predict there will be an absence of a happy ending though.


28 posted on 04/28/2014 12:56:01 PM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: FamiliarFace

The end result between a professional hanging and a drawing and quartering is the same as well. The means of getting there is far different. My Dad gave them the equivalent courtesy of a professional hanging. Well, actually it was the cats who did. Most of the time.


29 posted on 04/28/2014 1:01:09 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Scoutmaster

What about sissified men, or mannish women?


30 posted on 04/28/2014 1:41:02 PM PDT by vpintheak (I will not comply!)
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To: vpintheak
You're priorities are in the wrong place. It's all about the children.
31 posted on 04/28/2014 2:40:18 PM PDT by Scoutmaster (I'd rather be at Philmont)
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To: Scoutmaster

People actually get PAID for this crap, usually with our tax dollars.


32 posted on 04/28/2014 2:54:38 PM PDT by JimRed (Excise the cancer before it kills us; feed & water the Tree of Liberty! TERM LIMITS NOW & FOREVER!)
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To: JimRed

Not my tax dollars. I put a yellow sticky on my tax returns this year telling the IRS specifically what my tax dollars could be used for. That has to count for something, right?


33 posted on 04/28/2014 3:01:43 PM PDT by Scoutmaster (I'd rather be at Philmont)
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To: JimRed

Not my tax dollars. I put a yellow sticky on my tax returns this year telling the IRS specifically what my tax dollars could be used for. That has to count for something, right?


34 posted on 04/28/2014 3:01:43 PM PDT by Scoutmaster (I'd rather be at Philmont)
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