Barnes Maze

The Barnes Maze tests hippocampal-based spatial learning and memory. It is a less motor intensive and less aversive alternative to the Morris Water Maze. Instead of water, the Barnes Maze relies on rodent’s natural aversion to bright light and open spaces.  The Barnes Maze consists of an elevated circular platform with 20 evenly-spaced holes around the perimeter. An escape tunnel is mounted under one hole while the rest are left empty.

Our standard protocol maintains the escape tunnel at the same location across all five day, then a probe trial with the escape tunnel removed. Our reversal protocol maintains the escape tunnel at the same location for the first two days, then moves the escape tunnel to a new location each day for the remaining three days. In the reversal protocol, mice with intact spatial learning and cognitive flexibility make more errors and take more time to find the new location in the first trial, then improve across the other trials on that day.

For both protocols, mice that have impaired spatial learning as compared to controls take longer to find the escape tunnel and/or require more trials to reach the same performance level. This is only available for mice.

Fear Conditioning

The contextual and cued fear-conditioning test is one of the most widely used paradigms to assess associative learning and memory. This is a three day task that is followed by a shock sensitivity test. An auditory cue is paired with electric footshock on day 1 (conditioning), then on the following day contextual fear memory (hippocampal-based)  is tested by placing the animal in the same context but without auditory cues or footshocks. On day 3, cued fear memory (amygdala-based) is tested by placing the mice in a new context with the auditory cue alone. Percent of time spent freezing is used as a proxy to measure the animal’s fear response.

A shock sensitivity test is conducted after the fear conditioning task to test for potential differences in shock reactivity. Shock sensitivity is assessed to the point of flinch. Available for mice or rats.

Morris Water Maze

The Morris Water Maze tests hippocampal-based spatial memory and learning. Animals learn the relationship between distal cues in the surrounding environment to find a fixed escape location. It is performed in a round water tub filled with opaque water. A submerged platform is placed in the maze, not visible to the animal.

The standard protocol includes cued (visible platform) and non-cued (not visible platform) trials, followed by a probe trial in which the escape platform is removed to assess reference memory. Measures such as path length, swim speed and latency to find the platform are analyzed. 

This test is not appropriate for animals with severe motor deficits or that have hardware such as windows. The Barnes Maze is a land-based maze alternative that can be used with such animals. This test can be performed with mice and rats, in 144 cm and 183 cm diameter pools, respectively.

Novel Object and Location Recognition

The Novel Object and Location Recognition (NOLR) task is a type of object recognition test, a commonly used behavioral assay for studying learning and memory. This task leverages rodents’ innate preference for novelty. A typically functioning mouse will recognize familiar objects and spend more time with a novel object or object placed in a novel location. NOLR includes two habituation trials, a training trial and a test trial. Iin the training trial, two identical objects are presented. In the following test trial, one of the objects is replaced with a novel object or one of the objects is moved to a novel location. A reduction in preference for the novel object or novel location as compared to controls may indicate a short term memory impairment. The test is video recorded and Anymaze is used to track animal movement and investigation of objects. Available for mice.

We also offer the tactile version developed by the Orefice and Ginty Labs (PMIDs: 31398341 & 27293187).