Behavioural phenotyping is crucially based upon test batteries of behavioural paradigms assessing different brain and behaviour functions. This type of research is often both laborious and time consuming and demands a specific know-how and sophisticated equipment. The Rodent Behavioural Research Unit at the Laboratory of Neurochemistry & Behaviour holds a considerable expertise in the field of behavioural phenotyping of (transgenic) rodent models for human neurological conditions. The Research Unit is fully equipped for behavioural observations in rodents (mice and rats), including the evaluation of pharmacological interventions in specific models. The behavioural observation ranges from evaluation of simple reflexes to the systematic registration of complex learned responses as studied in the Morris water maze.
Motor performance, equilibrium and coordination are tested with an accelerating rotarod (Ugo Basile), the wire suspension test, the stationary beam test, and employing a semi-automated analysis of gait patterns. General activity and exploration levels are assessed in an open field arena complemented with a computerized video-tracking system (Ethovision system, Noldus). Latter tracking system is as well employed for recording of social interactive behaviour. Cage activity recording patterns of individually housed animals can be recorded over a period of several days by means of a computerized system.
Learning and memory performance can be evaluated in a variety of behavioural paradigms. The Morris water maze combined with the Ethovision video-tracking system assesses hippocampal-dependent visual-spatial memory. In addition, a plus-shaped water maze is available. Passive avoidance learning is screened in a step-through box linked with a small animal shocker. Protocols for evaluation of short and long-term memory can be applied in the various mazes. Conditioning protocols are analysed in Skinner or operant conditioning boxes (Coulbourn Instruments). These paradigms are also employed to study eating and drinking patterns over periods of several days. Fear responses are measured with a contextual fear protocol, as well as with an automated startle reflex system (Med Associates Inc). Anxiety can be quantified employing an elevated plus maze linked to the Ethovision video-tracking system, as well as a dark-light transition box and a holeboard.
The research unit has moreover ample experience in behavioural observations related to isolation-induced aggression, male sexual behaviour, depression-related symptoms, vision and olfaction, and epilepsy.