As most people know, the most common model organisms in biomedical research are rodents – particularly mice and rats. These rodent models have, over the last century, offered a staggering insight into a huge range of medical conditions, which has allowed scientific researchers to explore pathologies and create novel treatments for injuries and disease.
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A key part of assessing these rodent models is the analysis of motor and coordination dysfunctions. When injured, mice and rats, much like humans, alter their gait in order to protect their injured limbs and avoid pain due to loading and/or movement, as well as altering their gait in response to neurological disease or peripheral nerve damage.1–3
Indeed, dysfunction in both motor and coordination are the main diagnostic criteria for a range of CNS disorders, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, which can present themselves as gait abnormalities.
However, it must be noted that most rodent motor function tests – such as manual gait analysis techniques like running wheels, BBB scoring and ink-on-paper – are both subjective and inaccurate.4
The CatWalk XT provides a precise and objective method of automated gait analysis, allowing researchers to accurately analyze physiological and behavioral changes in rodent models.
The CatWalk XT and automated gait analysis
A powerful all-in-one rodent gait analysis system, the Noldus CatWalk XT, offers researchers a fully-automated and non-intrusive method of accurately quantifying rat and mouse locomotion.
The CatWalk XT uses Illuminated Footprints™ technology, instead of video interpretation like competing systems, in which light refracted off the paws of mice or rats that traverse freely over a glass walkway is tracked using a high temporal and spatial resolution camera.
The technology offered by the CatWalk XT measures subtle changes in each footstep’s timing, positions and dimensions by taking high-resolution images of the animal’s pawprints. Over 100 gait parameters can then be calculated, including stride length, swing speed and interlimb coordination.
Explaining factors affecting gait performance in adolescent mice
The CatWalk XT system was used by researchers at Heidelberg University and the University of Washington to investigate the effects of myriad disruptive factors including strain, sex, speed, age and body weight on gait performance.5
It was noted by the researchers that, while wide use of the CatWalk XT system had been made for researching adult mice, a range of gait and motor abnormalities in neuropsychiatric disorders can often manifest prior to adulthood. The team also recorded strain- and sex-specific effects in different behavioral tests.
The researchers deployed the CatWalk XT to perform a complete gait analysis of adolescent mice.
The system was able to accurately measure multiple spatial, temporal and interlimb coordination parameters simultaneously in the investigated strains during adolescence, thanks to the detailed footprint mapping, allowing the team to examine the effects of these confounding variables.
The researchers used these results to confirm the effects of genetic strain differences on motor and gait functions, as well as to deconstruct the effects of sex, speed, age and weight on mouse gait.
Recommendations were, therefore, able to be made regarding decreasing intra-laboratory discrepancies and increasing the validity of rodent models for future investigations of neuropsychiatric disorders.
The CatWalk XT is by far the most cited rodent gait analysis system in the world, having been used in over 2,400 published research projects.6 To find out more about the benefits of the system or book your free trial, get in touch with a member of the Noldus team today.
References and Further Reading
- Kirtley, C. Clinical Gait Analysis: Theory and Practice. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006).
- Lakes, E. H. & Allen, K. D. Gait analysis methods for rodent models of arthritic disorders: reviews and recommendations. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 24, 1837–1849 (2016).
- Assessing motor outcome in rats with peripheral nerve injury | Noldus. Assessing motor outcome in rats with peripheral nerve injury | Noldus https://www.noldus.com/blog/motor-performance-femoral-nerve-injury.
- de Barros Filho, T. E. P. & Molina, A. E. I. S. Analysis of The Sensitivity and Reproducibility Of The Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) Scale in Wistar Rats. Clinics 63, 103–108 (2008).
- Pitzer, C., Kurpiers, B. & Eltokhi, A. Gait performance of adolescent mice assessed by the CatWalk XT depends on age, strain and sex and correlates with speed and body weight. Sci Rep 11, 21372 (2021).
- Advantages - CatWalk XT. Advantages - CatWalk XT https://www.noldus.com/catwalk-xt/advantages.
About Noldus Information Technology
Noldus Information Technology was established in 1989 by Lucas Noldus, founder and CEO of the company. With a Ph.D. in animal behavior from Wageningen University, he developed the company’s first software tool during his research in entomology. Noldus has strived to advance behavioral research ever since, evolving into a company that provides integrated systems including software, hardware, and services.
We now offer a wide range of solutions for research in animal and human domains, including biology, psychology, marketing, human factors, and healthcare. We work with leading suppliers and develop innovative, state-of-the art products. We also offer excellent technical support and customer care. As a result, our systems have found their way into more than 10,200 universities, research institutes, and companies in almost 100 countries.
The success of our company is determined to a large extent by the enthusiasm and creativity of our employees. We encourage each other to think outside the box, which leads to unique products and services for our customers. And we are always on the lookout for new talent!
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