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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Oct;95(4):1338-51. Epub 2003 Apr 18.

Genotypic differences in ethanol sensitivity in two tests of motor incoordination.

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  • 1VA Medical Center, R&D 12 3710 SW US Veterans Hospital Rd., Portland, OR 97239, USA.


Motor incoordination is frequently used as a behavioral index of intoxication by drugs that depress the central nervous system. Two tasks that have been used to assay incoordination in mice, the balance beam and the grid test, were evaluated to optimize aspects of apparatus and testing procedures for studying genetic differences. Mice of eight inbred strains were given one of several doses of ethanol or saline and tested for intoxication. Strains differed in sensitivity to ethanol in both tests, indicating a significant influence of genotype on ethanol sensitivity. For the balance beam, the width of the beam affected the strain sensitivity pattern, and only the widest beam worked well at all doses. For the grid test, both ethanol dose and the time after drug injection affected strains differentially. Although the behavioral sign of intoxication recorded for both tests was a foot-slip error, the correlations of strain means for ethanol sensitivity across the two tasks were generally not significant. This suggests that the genes influencing ethanol sensitivity in the two tasks are mostly different. These results make clear that a single set of task parameters is insufficient to characterize genetic influences on behavior. Several other issues affect the interpretation of data using these tests.

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