Motor Coordination and Balance in Rodents

Rebecca J. Carter1, Jennifer Morton1, Stephen B. Dunnett2

1 University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2 Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.12
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0812s15
Online Posting Date:  August, 2001
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Measurement of motor coordination and balance can be used not only to assess the effect of drugs or other experimental manipulations on mice and rats, but also to characterize the motor phenotype of transgenic or knock‐out animals. Three well established and widely used protocols for measuring motor coordination and balance in mice and rats (rotarod, beam walking and footprint analysis) are described in this unit. The tests can be used equally well for rats and mice, and have been used both for the phenotypic characterization of transgenic mice and for evaluating the effects of lesions and aging in rats. The protocols are described in the primary context of testing mice, but modifications of the test apparatus or variations in the test parameters for assessment of rats are noted.

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Table of Contents

  • Basic Protocol 1: Assessing Balance Using a Rotarod
  • Basic Protocol 2: Beam Walking
  • Basic Protocol 3: Footprint Analysis
  • Support Protocol 1: Data Analysis
  • Commentary
  • Figures
  • Tables
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Basic Protocol 1: Assessing Balance Using a Rotarod

  • Male or female mice
  • 70% (v/v) ethanol
  • Rotarod apparatus (e.g., AccuScan Instruments, Biotech Instruments, Columbus Instruments, Letica Scientific Instruments, San Diego Instruments, Stoelting, Ugo Basile Biological Research Apparatus) with appropriate rotating cylinder for mice (diameter ∼30 mm) or rats (diameter ∼70 mm)

Basic Protocol 2: Beam Walking

  • Beams: 1‐m strips of smooth wood with small, medium, and large square (i.e., 5, 12, and 28 mm wide) and round (i.e., 11, 17, and 28 mm in diameter) cross‐sections
  • Narrow support stand to hold up the start section of the raised beam (1.5‐cm cross‐section, 50 cm high)
  • Goal box (20 cm on each side, with a 4 × 5–cm entrance hole) secured on a narrow support stand (3 cm cross‐section, 50 cm high)
  • Two 60‐watt (W) desk lamps
  • Video camera, tripod, and blank video tapes

Basic Protocol 3: Footprint Analysis

  • Nontoxic paints in two contrasting colors (e.g., orange and purple)
  • Open‐top runway (for mice: 50 cm long, 10 cm wide, with walls 10 cm high; for rats: 100 cm long, 10 cm wide, with walls 20 cm high), brightly illuminated from above
  • Enclosed goal box (20 cm square, with a 4 × 5–cm entrance hole)
  • White paper (A3 size: 29.7 × 42 cm)
  • Fine paint brushes
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Key Reference
   Ossenkopp, K.P., Kavaliers, M., and Sanberg, P.R. (eds.) 1996. Measuring Movement and Locomotion: From Invertebrates to Humans. R.G. Landes, Austin, Tex.
  Provides a good general overview of different strategies for movement analysis for all species. Less suitable for detailed accounts of individual methods.
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