Water Maze Testing to Identify Compounds for Cognitive Enhancement

Gregory M. Rose1, Wayne B. Rowe2

1 Center for Integrated Research in Cognitive & Neural Sciences and Departments of Anatomy and Physiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, 2 External Innovations, Sanofi, Bridgewater, New Jersey
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Pharmacology
Unit Number:  Unit 5.63
DOI:  10.1002/0471141755.ph0563s59
Online Posting Date:  December, 2012
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The water maze task is widely used to evaluate spatial learning and memory in rodents. The basic paradigm requires an animal to swim in a pool until it finds a hidden escape platform. The animals learn to find the platform using extra‐maze cues and, after several training trials, are able to swim directly to it from any starting location. Memory for the platform location is assessed by examining swimming behavior with the platform removed from the maze, while sensory, motor and motivational aspects of the task can be examined by making the platform visible to the animals. Described in this unit is the use of the water maze to identify rats with age‐related spatial learning and memory impairments. The efficacy of potential pharmacological treatments for alleviating these deficits is then evaluated. This assay provides a means for studying the neurobiology of spatial learning and memory, and to identify potential pharmacotherapies for treating memory‐impaired humans. While the use of aged rats is described in this unit, the protocol can also be employed for compound screening with other rodent models that have spatial learning and memory impairments, such as transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Curr. Protoc. Pharmacol. 59:5.63.1‐5.63.12. © 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Keywords: water maze; spatial memory; aging; cognition rodent

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Strategic Planning
  • Basic Protocol 1: Testing Cognition Enhancers Using Aged Rats in the Water Maze
  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: Testing Cognition Enhancers Using Aged Rats in the Water Maze

  • Male Fischer 344 Rats, 3 to 6 months and 23 to 24 months old (Hilltop Lab Animals)
  • Test compounds
  • Reference compounds (e.g., donepezil, memantine, GTS‐21, SB 271046 from Sigma‐Aldrich)
  • Vehicle solution used for test and/or reference compounds
  • Water maze apparatus (see Strategic Planning)
  • Stopwatch or computerized tracking system [e.g., Water 2100, sold by HVS Image (http://www.hvsimage.com) or ANY‐maze sold by San Diego Instruments (http://www.sandiegoinstruments.com) and Stoelting (http://www.stoelting.com)]
  • Home cages
  • Large scoop or similar object (e.g., flat kitchen sieve with a handle)
NOTE: Other rat strains, such as Long‐Evans, could also be used. Aged Sprague‐Dawley rats develop vision impairments, so they should be avoided. C57BL6 mice are available from many breeders and also show age‐related spatial learning impairments.
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Literature Cited

Literature Cited
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