Behavioral Tests Offered

The RBC offers behavioral testing of mice over a broad range of physiological and behavioral domains, including general health, cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor function.

General Health and Behavior

  • Sleep-Wake Activity Monitoring: Records the animal in its natural habitat, including sleep/wake cycles.
  • Functional Observation Battery: Provides a quantitative behavioral and functional profile by observational assessment of mice in multiple behavioral and physiological domains, including activity/arousal, motor and autonomic measures, sensory function and reflexes, neuropsychiatric function, and gross appearance and behaviors.
  • Automatic Behavior Recognition: Provides an automated quantitative behavioral profile of behaviors via video tracking such as (Grooming, hopping, supported rearing, unsupported rearing, digging, sniffing, walking, resting, eating, and drinking).

Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Morris Water Maze: Used to assess spatial learning and memory. This task has been well characterized as a test for learning, memory, and cognition. 
  • Radial Arm Water Maze: Test of spatial learning and memory; can measure both working and reference memory. 
  • Novel Object Recognition: Test of recognition and spatial memory with the use of novel objects and placement tasks. This test is based on the natural tendency of rodents to explore a novel object instead of a familiar one as well as their tendency to explore novel environments. 
  • Passive Avoidance: A simple screening to test memory retention by using the natural tendency of rodents to prefer closed, dark areas. The animal must learn to avoid a mild aversive stimulus by remaining in a well-lit area of the two-chambered apparatus. 
  • Active Avoidance: Active avoidance is a widely-used paradigm to evaluate fear-motivated associative learning and memory.  In the active avoidance behavior, a subject is trained to avoid an aversive unconditioned stimulus, by associating the conditioned stimulus (light and/or auditory tone) with the foot-shock.
  • Three Chamber Sociability: The Three-Chamber test assesses cognition in the form of general sociability and interest in social novelty in rodent models of CNS disorders. 
  • Y Maze Spontaneous Alternation: Y Maze Spontaneous Alternation is a behavioral test for measuring the willingness of rodents to explore new environments.

Motor Function and Coordination

  • Grip Strength: The grip strength test is used to evaluate muscle strength in the animal’s hindlimbs and forelimbs. 
  • Grid Walk Coordination Assessment: Test to assess coordination by measuring number of footslips of a given limb during free exploration of the grid. 
  • Balance Beam Walking: The balance beam tests motor coordination and balance, and can be used to detect subtle deficits in motor skills, coordination, and balance. 
  • Rotarod: This test uses the natural fear of falling response to study motor coordination. 
  • Wire Hang Test: This test evaluates muscle strength in the animals hind/forelimbs to maintain grip while inverted on a wire screen. 

Experimental Psychiatric Tests

  • Open Field Activity: This test is used to measure locomotor activity in rodents. It is a test based on natural exploratory instincts in a novel dark or brightly lit open field, and is used to monitor locomotion, exploration, anxiety, and risk assessment in response to a novel environment. Available as an automated high throughput assay via video tracking using Ethovision XT.
  • Elevated Plus Maze: A widely used test for measuring fear and anxiety-like behaviors, by determining a preference between a comparatively safe and comfortable environment (the closed arms) and a risky environment (elevated open spaces). 
  • Marble Burying Test: Marble burying is an animal model used in scientific research to depict anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behavior. It is based on the observation that mice will bury harmless objects in their bedding.
  • Light/Dark Box: Coming soon. The automated two-chamber dark box test is used to evaluate anxiety-like behavior. Available as an automated high throughput assay via video tracking using Ethovision XT.



Quality Control

Standard operating procedures and quality control data are generated for each of these tests. Tests are initially standardized with C57Bl/6 mice. Optimization of procedures is done based on published literature, such as Jackie Crawley’s “What’s Wrong with my Mouse” and “Short Protocols in Neuroscience: Systems and Behavioral Methods.” The RBC can assist investigators in all aspects of behavioral testing, including the design and execution of experiments, as well as data analysis and interpretation. Investigators and members of their laboratories may also choose to be trained in how to perform behavioral tests, so that they can participate in conducting the behavioral tests of their animals. All behavioral testing procedures are conducted in compliance with the policies on animal welfare of the NIH, as outlined in the “Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, National Research Council, Eighth Edition, 2011.

All RBC users must have IACUC protocol approval prior to use of the Core. An investigator’s animal protocols must be modified and approved by the IACUC to include the behavioral tests desired by the investigator. All personnel using the RBC must also receive training in basic animal care and handling.

For access to the Rodent Behavior Core policies and procedures regarding Good Research Practices (GRP) as well as a complete list of our standard operating procedures (SOP) see


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