Marble Burying

Marble burying behavior serves as a proxy for repetitive digging behavior. This task reflects repetitive behavior and is not a measure of anxiety, despite a reduction in this behavior with the administration of anxiolytic drugs. The test consists of a single 30-minute trial per animal and is scored by two trained observers.  The test occurs in a clean empty cage with novel aspen woodchip bedding. Twenty dark colored marbles (1.5cm diameter) are spaced evenly in a uniform 4×5 grid pattern on top of the bedding. Mice are placed inside of the cage and allowed to explore for 30 minutes, then removed without disturbing the marbles. Mouse digging behavior may move and cover marbles. A marble is scored as buried if it is at least two-thirds covered. The number of unburied marbles are counted by each scorer then averaged for a final measurement. Available in mice. This task is generally not video recorded, but can be if requested. 

Nest Building

Rodents build nests in their home cages for heat conservation, reproduction and shelter. This behavior can be leveraged to assess social behaviors (e.g., maternal care) or repetitive behaviors (e.g., compulsive cotton shredding). A specific quantity of nesting material is added to the home cage and the size and/or weight of the shredded portion is quantified following a specific amount of time, usually the next day.

Self-Grooming Test (spontaneous or induced)

This is a 10-minute test assessing general self-grooming behavior. Self-grooming is a core behavior for rodents, and mice are estimated to spend 40% of their waking time grooming themselves. Mice typically scratch and brush their fur for a few seconds to minutes. When this self-grooming behavior is repeated at a higher rate and for a longer duration, this can be considered a repetitive behavior and has been shown in some mouse models of autism and autism-like disorders such as Fragile X syndrome. Differences in self-grooming behavior may also interfere with interpretation of later cognitive, social and/or emotionality tests that require motoric responses. Self-grooming can be evaluated for spontaneous grooming or can be induced using a sucrose solution. Animals are evaluated in a clean empty homecage and video recorded. Videos can be scored via Ethovision Behavior Recognition module or passed to the investigator’s lab for manual scoring.

Spontaneous Alternation Y-maze

The spontaneous alternation Y-Maze leverages an animal’s willingness to explore their environment to assess working spatial memory and cognitive flexibility/perseveration. The Y-Maze has three arms and the entire apparatus is enclosed by walls. Animals are placed in one arm then allowed to freely explore all arms for 8 minutes. The number of entries, distance traveled and time spent in each arm is recorded as well as sequence of entry between the arms. A “perfect” sequence is defined as visiting the three arms in three consecutive entries (e.g. ABC, ACB, CAB, CBA, BCA, BAC). The total number of such sequences is divided by the total number possible to find the percent alternation rate for each animal. The trial is video recorded and Any-Maze is used for animal tracking. Available in mice and young rats.