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In JoVE (1)
- The Vermicelli and Capellini Handling Tests: Simple quantitative measures of dexterous forepaw function in rats and mice
Other Publications (10)
- ILAR Journal / National Research Council, Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources
- Synapse (New York, N.Y.)
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
- Journal of Neuroscience Methods
- Future Neurology
- Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Behavioural Brain Research
Articles by Rachel P. Allred in JoVE
The Vermicelli and Capellini Handling Tests: Simple quantitative measures of dexterous forepaw function in rats and mice
Kelly A. Tennant1, Aaron L. Asay2, Rachel P. Allred3, Angela R. Ozburn4, Jeffrey A. Kleim5, Theresa A. Jones1,2
1Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, 2Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 3Department of Neurology, University of Florida, 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5Department of Neuroscience, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida
The Vermicelli and Capellini Handling Tests of forepaw dexterity take advantage of the natural inclination of rodents to manipulate food items using skillful forepaw and digit movements. Animals are videotaped while handling short strands of uncooked dry pasta. Slow motion video playback allows for the quantification of forepaw adjustments.
Other articles by Rachel P. Allred on PubMed
ILAR Journal / National Research Council, Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources. 2003 | Pubmed ID: 12652009
The relevance of careful behavioral measures and manipulations in animal research on neural plasticity and brain damage has become increasingly clear. Recent research in adult rats indicates that an understanding of neural restructuring after brain damage requires an understanding of how it is influenced by postinjury behavioral experiences. Other research indicates that optimizing pharmacological and other treatments for brain damage may require their combination with rehabilitative training. Assessing the efficacy of a treatment approach in animal models requires the use of sensitive behavioral measures of functional outcome. In research on restorative plasticity after brain damage, procedures for handling and housing rats should promote the quality of behavioral measures and manipulations.
Unilateral Ischemic Sensorimotor Cortical Damage Induces Contralesional Synaptogenesis and Enhances Skilled Reaching with the Ipsilateral Forelimb in Adult Male Rats
Synapse (New York, N.Y.). Dec, 2004 | Pubmed ID: 15472929
Unilateral damage to the forelimb representation area of the sensorimotor cortex (SMC) results in a compensatory reliance on the unimpaired (ipsilateral to the lesion) forelimb as well as reorganization of neuronal structure and connectivity in the contralateral motor cortex. Recently, male rats with unilateral electrolytic SMC lesions were found to have enhanced skilled reaching performance with the ipsilesional forelimb compared with sham-operated controls. The present study was performed to determine whether these behavioral findings are replicable using an ischemic lesion and whether there is a link between the enhanced learning and synaptogenesis in motor cortical layer V opposite the trained limb and lesion, as assessed using stereological methods for light and electron microscopy. Rats were given a sham operation or an endothelin-1 (ET-1) induced ischemic SMC lesion. They were then trained for 20 days on a skilled reaching task with the unimpaired limb or received control procedures. As with previous findings using electrolytic lesions, rats with unilateral ischemic SMC lesions performed significantly better using the unimpaired forelimb than did sham-operates. Lesions, but not training, significantly increased the total number of motor cortical layer V synapses per neuron as well as the number of perforated and multisynaptic bouton (MSB) synapses per neuron compared with shams. Thus, in addition to a net increase in synapses, the improved reaching ability was coupled with an increase in synapse subtypes that have previously been linked to enhanced synaptic efficacy. The failure to induce synaptogenesis in layer V with reach training alone is in contrast to previous findings and may be related to training intensity.
Unilateral Ischemic Sensorimotor Cortical Damage in Female Rats: Forelimb Behavioral Effects and Dendritic Structural Plasticity in the Contralateral Homotopic Cortex
Experimental Neurology. Dec, 2004 | Pubmed ID: 15530882
Previous studies in male rats with unilateral sensorimotor cortical (SMC) damage have demonstrated dendritic structural plasticity in the contralateral homotopic cortex and an enhancement of skilled reaching performance in the forelimb ipsilateral to the lesion compared to sham-operated rats. The purpose of this study was to determine if these findings could be replicated in an ischemic lesion model in female rats. Female rats were given sham operations or unilateral ischemic (endothelin-1 induced) damage in the forelimb representation area of the SMC opposite their preferred forelimb. Animals then received either 20 consecutive days of training on a skilled reaching task with the non-preferred/unimpaired forelimb or no-training control procedures. The surface density of dendrites immunoreactive (IR) for microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2) was then measured in the motor cortex opposite the trained limb and/or lesion. Female rats with sufficiently large, but not very small, lesions performed better with the unimpaired forelimb than sham-operated rats on the reaching task. The post-lesion reaching performance was not found to be significantly dependent upon estrous stage at the time of surgery, in agreement with previous studies that failed to find sex or sex-hormone effects after other types of SMC damage. Additionally, there were major laminar-dependent increases in the surface density of MAP2 IR dendrites in the cortex opposite lesions and trained limbs. These findings in female rats are consistent with the dendritic and behavioral changes previously found in male rats. They extend these previous findings by indicating that lesion size is an important variable in the enhancement of reaching performance.
Maladaptive Effects of Learning with the Less-affected Forelimb After Focal Cortical Infarcts in Rats
Experimental Neurology. Mar, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 18054917
It is common following stroke to focus early rehabilitation efforts on developing compensatory use of the less-affected body side. Here we used a rat model of focal cortical infarct to examine how motor skill acquisition with the less-affected ("intact") forelimb influences sensorimotor function of the infarct-impaired forelimb and neural activity in peri-infarct cortex. Rats proficient in skilled reaching with one forelimb were given focal ischemic lesions in the contralateral sensorimotor cortex (SMC). Recovery in this forelimb was tested following a period of reach training focused on the intact forelimb or control procedures. Quantitative measures of the cumulatively expressed transcription factor, FosB/DeltaFosB, were used to assay intact forelimb training effects on neuronal activity in remaining SMC of the infarcted hemisphere. Intact forelimb training worsened behavioral recovery in the impaired forelimb following unilateral focal ischemia. Furthermore, it decreased neuronal FosB/DeltaFosB expression in layer II/III of peri-infarct SMC. These effects were not found in sham-operated rats trained sequentially with both forelimbs or in animals receiving bilateral forelimb training after unilateral infarcts. Thus, focused use of the intact forelimb has detrimental effects on recovery of impaired forelimb function following a focal ischemic injury and this is linked to reduced neuronal activation in remaining cortex. These results suggest that peri-infarct cortex becomes vulnerable to early post-stroke experience with the less-affected forelimb and that this experience may drive neural plasticity here in a direction that is maladaptive for functional outcome.
Motor Skill Training, but Not Voluntary Exercise, Improves Skilled Reaching After Unilateral Ischemic Lesions of the Sensorimotor Cortex in Rats
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. May-Jun, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 18073324
Exercise and rehabilitative training each have been implicated in the promotion of restorative neural plasticity after cerebral injury. Because motor skill training induces synaptic plasticity and exercise increases plasticity-related proteins, we asked if exercise could improve the efficacy of training on a skilled motor task after focal cortical lesions.
Journal of Neuroscience Methods. May, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 18325597
Loss of function in the hands occurs with many brain disorders, but there are few measures of skillful forepaw use in rats available to model these impairments that are both sensitive and simple to administer. Whishaw and Coles previously described the dexterous manner in which rats manipulate food items with their paws, including thin pieces of pasta [Whishaw IQ, Coles BL. Varieties of paw and digit movement during spontaneous food handling in rats: postures, bimanual coordination, preferences, and the effect of forelimb cortex lesions. Behav Brain Res 1996;77:135-48]. We set out to develop a measure of this food handling behavior that would be quantitative, easy to administer, sensitive to the effects of damage to sensory and motor systems of the CNS and useful for identifying the side of lateralized impairments. When rats handle 7 cm lengths of vermicelli, they manipulate the pasta by repeatedly adjusting the forepaw hold on the pasta piece. As operationally defined, these adjustments can be easily identified and counted by an experimenter without specialized equipment. After unilateral sensorimotor cortex (SMC) lesions, transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and striatal dopamine depleting (6-hydroxydopamine, 6-OHDA) lesions in adult rats, there were enduring reductions in adjustments made with the contralateral forepaw. Additional pasta handling characteristics distinguished between the lesion types. MCAO and 6-OHDA lesions increased the frequency of several identified atypical handling patterns. Severe dopamine depletion increased eating time and adjustments made with the ipsilateral forepaw. However, contralateral forepaw adjustment number most sensitively detected enduring impairments across lesion types. Because of its ease of administration and sensitivity to lateralized impairments in skilled forepaw use, this measure may be useful in rat models of upper extremity impairment.
Future Neurology. Mar, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 19718283
During the time period following damage, the brain undergoes widespread reorganizational processes. Manipulations of behavioral experience can be potent therapeutic interventions for shaping this reorganization and enhancing long-term functional outcome. Recovery of function is a major concern for survivors of central nervous system damage and management of post-injury rehabilitation is increasingly becoming a topic of chief importance. Animal research, the focus of this review, suggests that, in the absence of behavioral manipulations, the brain is unlikely to realize its full potential for supporting function. However, experiences also have the capacity to be maladaptive for brain and behavioral function. From a treatment perspective, it may be unwise to adopt the canon of "first, do no harm" because maladaptive experiences include behaviors that individuals learn to do on their own. A better understanding of how behavioral experience interacts with brain reorganization could result in rehabilitative therapies, individually tailored and optimized for functional outcome.
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation. Mar, 2009 | Pubmed ID: 19064784
Behavioral experience can drive brain plasticity, but we lack sufficient knowledge to optimize its therapeutic use after stroke.
The "good" Limb Makes the "bad" Limb Worse: Experience-dependent Interhemispheric Disruption of Functional Outcome After Cortical Infarcts in Rats
Behavioral Neuroscience. Feb, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 20141287
Following stroke-like lesions to the sensorimotor cortex in rats, experience with the ipsi-to-lesion (ipsilesional), "nonparetic", forelimb worsens deficits in the contralesional, "paretic", forelimb. We tested whether the maladaptive effects of experience with the nonparetic limb are mediated through callosal connections and the contralesional sensorimotor cortex. Adult male rats with proficiency in skilled reaching with their dominant (for reaching) forelimb received ischemic bilateral sensorimotor cortex lesions, or unilateral lesions, with or without callosal transections. After assessing dominant forelimb function (the paretic forelimb in rats with unilateral lesions), animals were trained with their nonparetic/nondominant forelimb or underwent control procedures for 15 days. Animals were then tested with their paretic/dominant forelimb. In animals with unilateral lesions only, nonparetic forelimb training worsened subsequent performance with the paretic forelimb, as found previously. This effect was not found in animals with both callosal transections and unilateral lesions. After bilateral lesions, training the nondominant limb did not worsen function of the dominant limb compared with controls. Thus, the maladaptive effects of training the nonparetic limb on paretic forelimb function depend upon the contralesional cortex and transcallosal projections. This suggests that this experience-dependent disruption of functional recovery is mediated through interhemispheric connections of the sensorimotor cortex.
Breeder and Batch-dependent Variability in the Acquisition and Performance of a Motor Skill in Adult Long-Evans Rats
Behavioural Brain Research. Oct, 2011 | Pubmed ID: 21664381
Reaching tasks are popular tools for investigating the neural mechanisms of motor skill learning and recovery from brain damage in rodents, but there is considerable unexplained variability across studies using these tasks. We investigated whether breeder, batch effects, experimenter, time of year, weight and other factors contribute to differences in the acquisition and performance of a skilled reaching task, the single pellet retrieval task, in adult male Long-Evans hooded rats. First, we retrospectively analyzed task acquisition and performance in rats from different breeding colonies that were used in several studies spanning a 3 year period in our laboratory. Second, we compared reaching variables in age-matched rats from different breeders that were trained together as a batch by the same experimenters. All rats had received daily training on the reaching task until they reached a criterion of successful reaches per attempt. We found significant breeder-dependent differences in learning rate and final performance level. This was found even when age-matched rats from different breeders were trained together by the same experimenters. There was also significant batch-to-batch variability within rats from the same breeder trained by the same experimenter. Other factors, including weight, paw preference and the experimenter, were not as strong or consistent in their contributions to differences across studies. The breeder and batch effects found within the same rat strain may reflect genetic and environmental influences on the neural substrates of motor skill learning. This is an important consideration when comparing baseline performance across studies and for controlling variability within studies.