I normally start my day at the lab habituating mice to a head-fixation device connected to a treadmill. Mice that are considered habituated will groom and run (and sometimes vocalize a little bit spontaneously) instead of displaying freezing behavior. Before placing them back to their home cages, I usually give the mice some sweet treats for having put up with the treadmill training that day. The goal of this habituation is to get the head-fixed mice to vocalize. Since male mice vocalize most reliably during courtship, I run behavior sessions occasionally during or after treadmill to give the males opportunities to spend time with females.
Depending on the exact content of mice training, I might do histology during or after the habituation sessions. Sometimes, the afternoon is spent learning or performing surgeries (which I’m still very slow at…).
While everyone in the lab has a busy schedule and tries the best to be the most productive every day, one lesson I learned so far is that you can never force behaviors to happen naturally. If the mice refuse to vocalize…mind-blowingly, they just don’t vocalize. If the mice dislike the treadmill…well, I haven’t found the magic wand yet to make them relaxed right away. Working in the lab has been an incredible learning experience beyond just the technical aspect. I’m learning to be patient and flexible, to troubleshoot, and to look positively at the reality that things don’t always work! 🙂