Behavioral tests for preclinical intervention assessment
Neurorx the Journal of the American Society for Experimental Neurotherapeutics 3(4): 497-504
ISSN/ISBN: 1545-5343 PMID: 17012064 DOI: 10.1016/j.nurx.2006.08.001
Select functional outcome tests commonly used for evaluating sensorimotor and cognitive capacity in rodents with focal intracerebral ischemic or hemorrhagic injury are described, along with upgrades and issues of concern for translational research. An emphasis is placed on careful quantitative and qualitative assessment of acute and long-term behavioral deficits, and on avoidance of frequent pitfalls. Methods for detecting different degrees of injury and treatment-related improvements are included. Determining the true potential of an intervention requires a set of behavioral analyses that can monitor compensatory learning. In a number of preclinical outcome tests, animals can develop remarkably effective "tricks" that are difficult to detect but frequently lead to dramatic improvements in performance, particularly with repeated practice. However, some interventions may facilitate learning without promoting brain repair, but these may not translate into a meaningful level of benefit in the clinic. Additionally, it is important to determine whether there are any preinjury functional asymmetries in order to accurately assess damage-related changes in behavior. This is illustrated by the fact that some animals have chronic endogenous asymmetries and that others, albeit infrequently, can sustain a spontaneous cerebral stroke, without any experimental induction, that can lead to chronic deficits as reflected by behavioral, imaging, and histological analyses. Finally, a useful new modification of the water maze that involves moving the platform from trial to trial within the target quadrant is reviewed, and its advantages over the standard version are discussed.