Using the CatWalk XT to perform gait analysis on rodents

When it comes to evaluating behavioral and physiological changes in clinical and pre-clinical rodent models, gait analysis is a powerful tool: it offers a valuable insight into pathology and experimental treatments for a significant array range of health conditions.

Detailed, accurate and fully automated gait analysis is provided by the CatWalk XT, which allows researchers to easily quantify footfalls and locomotion in mice and rats.

Gait analysis: Significance

Gait analysis is not a new concept. The first human and quadrupedal gait patterns were recorded by Edward Muybridge in the late 1800s, following developments in the understanding of the anatomy and mechanics of walking, which occurred throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.1

The amount of information that can be gained from gait analysis in the 20th century was greatly enhanced by the advent of force-measuring plates, as well as benefitting from an improved understanding of kinetics.

It soon became apparent with the first clinical applications, pioneered in the 1970s, that gait analysis was to offer a rich plethora of information into how an organism functioned both physiologically and neurologically.

Gait analysis, alongside applications in prosthetics, zoology and exercise physiology, consequently became recognized as an extremely significant tool when it came to analyzing medical conditions like arthritis, cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury.2,3

Gait analysis in rodents

Rats and mice are widely regarded as near-ideal animal disease models, given that they are inexpensive, small and easily genetically modified. Thus, for over a century, these small rodents have served as the leading model organisms in biomedical research.

The conceptual basis for gait analysis in both species remains the same for both rodents and humans, despite the fact that quadrupedal gait patterns of rodents are, of course, different from their bipedal counterparts in humans.

In both species, members will alter their gait pattern so that they are able to protect an injured limb from pain as a result of loading or movement or in response to peripheral nerve damage.3,4  Therefore, it is clear that gait analysis in rodents has great potential in medical research that has human applications.

Accurate gait analysis was, until recently, only possible for larger animals such as humans and horses as opposed to smaller animals like mice. Early attempts have been subjective and failed to accurately assess the temporal dynamics of gait when attempting to quantify the motor function of rats – with methods such as BBB scoring, running wheels and ink-on-paper.5

However, accurate gait analysis of rodent models has been facilitated by improvements in high-speed videography, which has allowed researchers to evaluate the potential changes that may be provided by experimental treatments.

The high temporal and spatial resolution cameras and proprietary Illuminated Footprints™ technology offered by CatWalk XT combine to bring affordable and sophisticated rodent gait analysis to a range of laboratories.

Image Credit: Noldus

The CatWalk XT

The CatWalk XT uses light refraction to capture actual footprints as a rodent voluntarily traverses a glass walkway, while other systems rely on inconsistent ad error-prone paw recognition.6

The CatWalk XT’s Illuminated Footprints™ technology allows for highly accurate distinction between the parts of the animal that touch with the floor and those that do not. Such subtle distinctions allow the built-in software to identify subtle changes within each footprint’s timing, positions, and dimensions.

The CatWalk XT never mistakes one part of the body for another, thanks to the detection of individual pawprints, and the technology is unparalleled when it comes to measuring footprint shape and size. CatWalk XT uses this footprint data to calculate over 100 parameters for quantitative and qualitative analysis of gait and footfall.

Applications

The CatWalk XT helps researchers worldwide to rapidly obtain accurate and objective data on locomotion in rats and mice, as the use of rodent gait analysis for research continues to increase around the world. With over 2400 publications based on the system, the CatWalk XT is, by far, the most cited gait analysis system in the world.7

Many gait parameters are velocity-dependent: a common confounding factor with rodent gait analysis that can make it difficult to establish whether variations in gait are due to injury, treatment or simply a difference in speed.

This data is provided by the CatWalk XT to allow researchers to compensate for this velocity dependence, removing this common disruptive factor and ameliorating the validity of their data.8,9

The CatWalk XT is, therefore, a powerful and versatile tool, offering researchers the ability to rapidly determine multiple gait parameters such as stride length, swing speed, interlimb coordination and paw intensity.

Previous applications of this market-leading technology include:

If you’d like to know more about the CatWalk XT, contact Noldus to book a free demo or read more about recent applications of the system here.

References and Further Reading

  1. Baker, R. The history of gait analysis before the advent of modern computers. Gait & Posture 26, 331–342 (2007).
  2. Kirtley, C. Clinical Gait Analysis: Theory and Practice. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Noldus | CatWalk XT | Methodology. Methodology https://www.noldus.com/catwalk-xt/methodology.
  7. Advantages - CatWalk XT. Advantages - CatWalk XT https://www.noldus.com/catwalk-xt/advantages.
  8. Methods to Quantify the Velocity Dependence of Common Gait Measurements from Automated Rodent Gait Analysis Devices. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560675/.
  9. 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).

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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Last updated: Mar 31, 2022 at 9:50 AM

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