Assessment of Spontaneous Locomotor and Running Activity in Mice

Charles Thomas1, Stefan Marcaletti2, Jérôme N. Feige2

1 Center of Phenogenomics (CPG), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2 MusculoSkeletal Diseases, Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Mouse Biology
Unit Number:   
DOI:  10.1002/9780470942390.mo100170
Online Posting Date:  March, 2011
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The locomotor activity of laboratory mice is a global behavioral trait which can be valuable for the primary phenotyping of genetically engineered mouse models as well as mouse models of pathologies affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems, the musculoskeletal system, and the control of energy homeostasis. Basal levels of mouse locomotion can be recorded using infrared monitoring of movements, and further information can be gathered by giving the animal access to a running wheel, which will greatly enhance its spontaneous physical activity. Described here are two detailed protocols to evaluate basal locomotor activity and spontaneous wheel running. Curr. Protoc. Mouse Biol. 1:185‐198. © 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Keywords: activity; locomotion; wheel running; training

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Basic Protocol 1: Assessment of Spontaneous Locomotor Activity Using Infrared Detection
  • Basic Protocol 2: Assessment of Spontaneous Running Activity in Wheels
  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: Assessment of Spontaneous Locomotor Activity Using Infrared Detection

  • Mice (e.g., C57BL/6J)
  • Housing room dedicated to this experiment with restricted access of lab personnel during recording
  • Locomotor activity monitoring system (see Fig. ): e.g., TSE (http://www.tse‐, Columbus Instruments (, or PanLab (, typically composed of several of the following units:
    • Cage for single mouse housing (with a design and feeding/drinking systems as close as possible to the home cage)
    • Infrared transmitters and receivers for horizontal movement in x direction
    • Infrared transmitters and receivers for horizontal movement in y direction (optional)
    • Infrared transmitters and receivers for vertical movement in z direction (rearings)
    • Food and water consumption monitoring devices (optional, allows correlation of activity with feeding/drinking patterns)
NOTE: The position of all infrared transmitters and receivers should be adjustable, and the inter‐beam spacing is typically on the order of 1 to 3 cm. Figure provides an example of a home‐cage monitoring system (Fig. A) and of a metabolic cage including actimetry infrared beams (Fig. B). Ideally, home‐cage monitoring is the preferred option, as the presence of bedding and a familiar environment minimizes the stress induced by a change of housing conditions. However, metabolic cages can offer advantages such as the ability to measure energy expenditure and to collect urine and feces. NOTE: A computer and software supplied by the manufacturer of the system are required to quantify beam breaks and process the data. Each system has specificities in terms of data processing, but general considerations are addressed in steps 11 and 12, below.

Basic Protocol 2: Assessment of Spontaneous Running Activity in Wheels

  • Mice (e.g., C57BL/6J)
  • Housing room dedicated to this experiment with restricted access of lab personnel during recording
  • Cages with free running wheels and food/water supply: e.g., Lafayette (, PanLab (, TSE (http://www.tse‐, Tecniplast (; Figure shows two examples of typical setups—the wheel diameter is variable depending on the manufacturer but should be ∼12 to 30 cm, and wheels should be equipped with a system to quantify the number of revolutions
  • Computer and software supplied by the manufacturer of the system to quantify the number of revolutions as a function of time
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Literature Cited

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