Animal Behavior

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The Animal Behavior Core offers interested investigators a time-efficient, cost-effective opportunity to examine the behavioral consequences of gene mutation in mice as well as assess the effects of specific drugs, experimental manipulations (e.g., neuronal loss), and altered development on behavior in laboratory rodents. Services include consultation, animal handling and gentling, behavioral testing, and data management and statistical analysis.


McDonnell Basement


There are several ways in which the ABC staff will serve the behavioral testing needs of interested investigators:

  1. Offer a basic panel of general tests for behavioral phenotyping;
  2. Work with investigators to test specific behavioral functions;
  3. Work with investigators to modify current tests to accomodate certain strains and experimental treatments;
  4. Work with investigators to develop tests not in current repetoire (e.g., alcohol preference);
  5. Design experiments to assess the effects of drugs on behavioral functions.

In addition to overseeing the conducting of the behavioral tests, Dr. Wozniak will also work with investigators during the planning stages of their research. This service includes the selection of appropriate behavioral tests and background strains as well as deriving an optimal experimental design for testing scientific hypotheses. After data is collected, Dr. Wozniak offers graphical and statistical analyses and will provide assistance with regard to writing manuscripts and grant proposals if so desired by investigators.

Available Tests

The Animal Behaviors Core offers many different behavioral tests that may be combined in various ways to develop basic screening batteries for characterizing behavioral phenotypes for mutant mouse strains. The behavioral measures may be organized into six functional domains: sensorimotor functions, learning and memory capabilities, altered emotionality, social interactions, sensory capacities, and pain-related behaviors; the last two domains being evaluated within the departments of otolaryngology and anesthesiology, respectively. Tests currently being offered within each domain are listed below. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of the tests that may be performed.

  1. Sensorimotor Functions: basic battery – walking initiation, ledge, platform inclined/inverted screens and pole tests. Also: 1-hr locomotor activity; acoustic startle; prepusle inhibition; and ataxia tests (rotarod, grid, and footprint).
  2. Learning and Memory: spatial – Morris water maze, radial arm maze, holeboard, reinforced alternation, spontaneous alternation; nonspatial – conditioned fear, passive avoidance, and conditioned place preference.
  3. Altered Emotionality: elevated plus maze, open-field behaviors, light-dark test, force swim, tail suspension.
  4. Social Interactions: resident intruder, homecage interactions, social reinforcement.
  5. Visual Thresholds: the presence of an optokinetic response (head and body movement) to rotation of the visual field is used to determine visual acuity and contrast sensitivity thresholds.
  6. Other Sensory Functions (Otolaryngology): electroretinogram (vision) and auditory brainstem response (audition); rotator sled (vestibular).
  7. Nociception (Anesthesiology): thermal and mechanical sensitivity, formalin test, nocifensive behaviors in response to intrathecal drugs.


The Animal Behavior Core is open to all WU Neuroscience investigators on a fee for services basis although substantial funding will be provided by the P30 grant. Hope Center investigators may be eligible for additional support for Core services through the Hope Center. Neuroscience investigators from nonprofit/academic institutions outside of WU may be able to use Core services as well on a fee-negotiated basis.

How to Obtain Core Services

Investigators potentially interested in having the ABC conduct behavioral testing on their mice should contact Dr. Wozniak to obtain more information.



This Core is supported by NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Core grant (P30 NS057105) to Washington University.