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J Neurosci Methods. 2003 Jun 15;126(1):13-23.

Distinct forelimb and hind limb stepping impairments in unilateral dopamine-depleted rats: use of the rotorod as a method for the qualitative analysis of skilled walking.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Dr., Alberta, Lethbridge, Canada T1K 3M4.


The rotorod test, in which animals walk on a rotating drum, is widely used to assess motor status in laboratory rodents. Performance is measured by the duration that an animal stays up on the drum as a function of drum speed. Here we report that the task provides a rich source of information about qualitative aspects of walking movements. Because movements are performed in a fixed location, they can readily be examined using high-speed video recording methods. The present study was undertaken to examine the potential of the rotorod to reveal qualitative changes in the walking movements of hemi-Parkinson analogue rats, produced by injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into the nigrostriatal bundle to deplete nigrostriatal dopamine (DA). Beginning on the day following surgery and then periodically over the next two months, the rats were filmed from frontal, lateral, and posterior views as they walked on the rotorod. Behavior was analyzed by frame-by-frame replay of the video records. Rating scales of stepping behavior indicated that the hemi-Parkinson rats were chronically impaired in their posture and in the use of the limbs contralateral to the DA-depletion. The contralateral limbs not only displayed postural and movement abnormalities, they participated less in initiating and sustaining propulsion than did the ipsilateral limbs. These findings not only reveal new deficits secondary to unilateral DA-depletion, but also show that the rotorod can provide a robust tool for the qualitative analysis of movement.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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