Assessment of Developmental Milestones in Rodents

Charles J. Heyser1

1 Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.18
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0818s25
Online Posting Date:  February, 2004
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Developmental tests are used to characterize early markers of behavior for investigation of the neurobiology of these behaviors, and to assess the impact of early prenatal or postnatal insult. These perturbations may include pharmacological, environmental, and genetic manipulations. At birth the rat is capable of some specific activities, but its movements are uncoordinated and seemingly random, its tactile sensitivity is not fully developed, and its ear canals and eyes remain closed until several days after birth. Postnatal development consists mainly of the continuation of processes begun earlier. This unit presents protocols for the most commonly used animal tests of developmental reflexology, including negative geotaxis, cliff avoidance, placing responses, tactile and acoustic startle responses, surface and air righting reflexes, crossed extensor reflex, rooting reflex, grasp reflex, bar holding, and horizontal and vertical screen tests.

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Table of Contents

  • Strategic Planning
  • Basic Protocol 1: Physical Landmarks of Rodent Development
  • Basic Protocol 2: Developmental Reflexes in Rodents
  • Basic Protocol 3: Development of Locomotor Behavior in Rodents
  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
  • Tables
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Basic Protocol 1: Physical Landmarks of Rodent Development

  • Experimental subject (rat or mouse)
  • Nontoxic indelible marker or equipment for animal tattooing
  • Data sheet (see Fig. )
  • Holding cage: 43 × 27 × 15–cm standard plastic animal cage
  • Wood‐chip bedding
  • Waterproof, hospital‐grade heating pad
  • Dissecting microscope
  • Small animal scale

Basic Protocol 2: Developmental Reflexes in Rodents

  • Experimental subject (rat or mouse)
  • Nontoxic indelible marker or equipment for animal tattooing
  • Data sheet (see Fig. )
  • Holding cage: 43 × 27 × 15–cm standard plastic animal cage
  • Wood chip bedding
  • Waterproof, hospital‐grade heating pad
  • Stopwatch
  • Padding: e.g., foam rubber
  • Round metal bar thin enough for pup to grasp (∼4‐ to 7‐mm diameter)
  • Inclined plane: wooden or plastic floor, 30 × 30 cm, set at an angle of 30°, covered with 16‐mesh wire screen
  • Wooden platform ≥30 cm in height
  • Handheld metal clicker (can be bought from canine training facilities)
  • Metal wire mesh screens: 30 × 30 cm, 16‐mesh

Basic Protocol 3: Development of Locomotor Behavior in Rodents

  • Experimental subject (rat or mouse)
  • Nontoxic indelible marker or equipment for animal tattooing
  • Data sheet (see Fig. )
  • Heated holding cage: 43 × 27 × 15–cm standard plastic animal cage
  • Wood chip bedding
  • Waterproof, hospital‐grade heating pad
  • Stopwatch
  • Open field (recommended size 50 × 50 × 25 cm)
  • Video camera (optional)
NOTE: Experiments conducted over an extensive period of time must take into account the possible effects of prolonged maternal deprivation and control for possible body temperature loss (see Critical Parameters and Troubleshooting).
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Literature Cited

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