A Within-Animal Comparison of Skilled Forelimb Assessments in Rats



A variety of skilled reaching tasks have been developed to evaluate forelimb function in rodent models. The single pellet skilled reaching task and pasta matrix task have provided valuable insight into recovery of forelimb function in models of neurological injury and disease. Recently, several automated measures have been developed to reduce the cost and time burden of forelimb assessment in rodents. Here, we provide a within-subject comparison of three common forelimb assessments to allow direct evaluation of sensitivity and efficiency across tasks. Rats were trained to perform the single pellet skilled reaching task, the pasta matrix task, and the isometric pull task. Once proficient on all three tasks, rats received an ischemic lesion of motor cortex and striatum to impair use of the trained limb. On the second week post-lesion, all three tasks measured a significant deficit in forelimb function. Performance was well-correlated across tasks. By the sixth week post-lesion, only the isometric pull task measured a significant deficit in forelimb function, suggesting that this task is more sensitive to chronic impairments. The number of training days required to reach asymptotic performance was longer for the isometric pull task, but the total experimenter time required to collect and analyze data was substantially lower. These findings suggest that the isometric pull task represents an efficient, sensitive measure of forelimb function to facilitate preclinical evaluation in models of neurological injury and disease.



Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Automated-method, Stroke, Recovery of Function, Endothelin-1, Forelimb, Rats, Brain Injuries, Kinematics, Neostriatum, Motor Cortex


Research reported in this publication was supported by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant made to Vulintus, Inc. by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R44NS086344 to develop products based on this research. Vulintus, Inc. provided support under this award in the form of salaries for authors (AMS, MKF). Authors supported by Vulintus, Inc. participated in study design, data collection and analysis, and preparation of the manuscript, as articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. Vulintus, Inc. did not have any additional role in the decision to publish. Research was also supported by R01NS085167 (RLR), the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency under Award Number HR0011-15-2-0017 (SAH, RLR), and the Texas Biomedical Device Center (RLR). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or the Texas Biomedical Device Center.


CC BY 4.0 (Attribution), ©2015 The Authors