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Center on Human Development and Disability
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Emphasis Areas


Research Affiliates

Core Services
Behavioral Science Core

Brain Imaging Core

Cellular Morphology Core

Genetics Core

Animal Behavior Core

Instrument Development Laboratory Core

Mouse Behavior Core (MBC)

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Dr. Murphy
Dr. Cole

Sean P. Murphy, Ph.D., Director

Toby B. Cole, Ph.D., Core Manager

Overall Objectives

The Mouse Behavior Core (MBC) is a newly-established core facility, and provides a rodent behavioral testing service to investigators at the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD).

Our goal is to provide CHDD investigators with a wide variety of tests for evaluation of mice in specific behavioral domains, including sensory and motor function, learning and memory, anxiety, and social interactions. The capabilities of the MBC are driven by user demand. We operate on the principle that the investigator is the expert and should be involved integrally in both the design and conduct of the experiments. We provide advice in both of these aspects, and work closely with investigators to train them in the conduct of specific tests and to assist in data analysis. Use of the Noldus Ethovision system automates much of the data collection and analysis, with built-in QA/QC to reduce human error. We are available to CHDD investigators for consultations, and provide access and training in the use of our neurobehavioral testing equipment.

The Mouse Behavior Core Facility

The MBC facility is located in the RR wing of the Medical Research Tower, in close proximity to other related CHDD cores. The facility consists of three rooms, including a decentralized housing room maintained on a 12-hr light/dark cycle, and two rooms for behavioral testing.

The MBC facility has multiple capabilities for measuring the behavior of mice, including a Noldus Catwalk for measuring gait analysis, a Noldus Ethovision system for measuring mouse home-cage behavior, and videotracking systems for use with a variety of mazes used for measurement of learning, memory, anxiety, social interactions, and other measures of mouse behavior. Specific behavioral tests are listed below.

All procedures are conducted in strict accordance with the National Research Council Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, as adopted by the National Institutes of Health, and are approved by the University of Washington Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

Steps for Initiating a New Project

CHDD investigators are encouraged to contact Dr. Murphy or Dr. Cole for an initial consultation to discuss the specific scientific hypotheses to be tested. We will work closely with individual investigators to determine the appropriate behavioral tests for their specific needs, and will facilitate IACUC approval and scheduling of the experiments.

Contact Information

Mouse Behavior Core Facility (206) 221-7283

Toby B. Cole, Ph.D. (206) 543-9300 tobycole@uw.edu

Sean P. Murphy, Ph.D. (206) 543-5434 seanm6@uw.edu

Behavioral Testing Capabilities

Behavioral testing typically requires 10 to 20 mice per experimental group to attain statistical significance. Behavioral testing is highly sensitive to environmental influences, so steps to minimize environmental differences among mice are critical.

Activity monitoring in Noldus PhenoTyper Cages:

The MBC has 16 PhenoTyper cages, consisting of a basic cage or a home cage, with a top unit that is equipped with LED units and an IR camera. One or two mice are placed into the cage, and they are left in the cage for as long as the experiment requires (up to one week), while their activity is recorded with the Ethovision system. Because they have access to food and water, mice can be monitored during both the light and dark cycle, allowing determination of circadian patterns of activity.

Noldus Catwalk:

This equipment assesses footfalls and gait quantitatively. It consists of a corridor that directs and limits the freedom of movement of the mouse to a straight line across the walkway, where a special glass walking surface and high speed color camera record and analyze the gait. The mouse is placed at one end of the corridor, and walks to the other end, then is returned to its home cage. In some cases it is useful to include a goal box at the end, consisting of a black shelter with room for a home cage underneath.

Videotracking with Noldus EthoVision:

The MBC has two videotracking systems with cameras and EthoVision tracking software, one for use with a desktop computer and one for use with a laptop computer. Both systems are capable of either live tracking or tracking animals in recorded video files. These systems provide a high degree of flexibility, and can be used with a large variety of mazes, including the T-maze, elevated-plus maze, Morris water maze, radial-arm maze, light-dark boxes, and open field boxes.

Focal deficits panel:

(scored from 0 to 4) This panel scores mice on six specific measures of motor function: body symmetry, front limb symmetry, gait, circling behavior (on an open benchtop), compulsory circling, climbing on an inclined plane, and whisker response.

Grid test:

Mice are placed on an elevated grid surface (30 L x 35 W x 31 H cm) and the number of foot-faults made by the ipsilateral and contralateral limbs are counted. Each test consists of three trials lasting 1 min each, with an inter-trial interval of 1 min. Foot faults are expressed as the number of errors made by the contralateral limbs as a percentage of the total errors made.

Corner test:

The corner test detects a combination of mild-to-moderate focal ischemia-induced symmetries, including sensory to the vibrissae, fore- and hind-limb use, and postural motor function. The mouse is placed between two boards (30 x 20 x 1 cm), with the edges attached at a 30 degree angle and a small opening along the joint to encourage entry into the corner. The mouse then rears forward and up, and turns back to face the open end. Normal mice turn either left or right. The turns in one vs. the other direction are recorded from 20 trials for each test.

Elevated-plus maze:

The elevated-plus maze measures anxiety, exploration and activity levels in mice by taking advantage of the innate tendency of mice to avoid open and elevated areas. The maze consists of a central square (5 x 5 cm), from which radiate four arms (5 x 30 cm). Two of the arms have plexiglass walls (15 cm high) around the edge (closed arms), whereas the other two arms do not have walls (open arms), but do have a 0.25 cm-high edge to prevent the mice from falling from the maze. The maze is elevated 45 cm above the floor. A videotracking system is used to measure entries and duration in the center, open arms, and closed arms. The test can be performed in the light or dark cycle. Mice are placed in the central square of the apparatus, facing an open arm. Mice are allowed to explore the apparatus for 5 min while data are being collected. Data collected include line crosses, rears, head dips, grooming, stretch attend postures, urination puddles, fecal boli, closed-arm entries and duration, open-arm entries and duration, center entries and duration.

T-maze (non-elevated):

Mice are allowed to alternate spontaneously between the left and right goal arms (30 x 10 cm) of a T-shaped maze (start alley 30 x 10 cm) throughout a 15-trial session. Once a subject has entered a particular goal arm, a door is lowered quietly to block entry to the opposite arm. The door is re-opened after 30 sec when the mouse is returned to the start arm and allowed to choose between the goal arms. Each trial takes about 2 min. The spontaneous alternation rate is calculated as the ratio between the alternating choices and total number of choices. If necessary for motivation, "rewarded alternation" may be used, in which the mouse is made hungry by 12-hr food deprivation and is then rewarded with a preferred food if it alternates.

T-maze (elevated):

The test is performed identically to the non-elevated version, except that the maze is elevated 30-cm above floor level, and low walls (1 cm) made of clear plastic are used instead of high walls.


University of Washington • Center on Human Development and Disability Box 357920 • Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA • 206-543-7701 • chdd@uw.edu