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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 4;100(5):2917-22. Epub 2003 Feb 12.

Assessment of genetic susceptibility to ethanol intoxication in mice.

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  • 1Portland Alcohol Research Center, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University, and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3710 Southwest U.S. Veterans Hospital Road (R&D 12), Portland, OR 97239, USA.


Increased use of gene manipulation in mice (e.g., targeted or random mutagenesis) has been accompanied by increased reliance on a very few rapid and simple behavioral assays, each of which aspires to model a human behavioral domain. Yet, each assay comprises multiple traits, influenced by multiple genetic factors. Motor incoordination (ataxia), a common characteristic of many neurological disorders, may reflect disordered balance, muscle strength, proprioception, and/or patterned gait. Impaired motor performance can confound interpretation of behavioral assays of learning and memory, exploration, motivation, and sensory competence. The rotarod is one of the most commonly used tests to measure coordination in mice. We show here that exactly how the rotarod test is performed can markedly alter the apparent patterns of genetic influence both in undrugged performance and sensitivity to ethanol intoxication. However, when tested with well chosen parameters, the accelerating rotarod test showed very high inter- and intralaboratory reliability. Depending on test conditions, ethanol can either disrupt or enhance performance in some strains. Genetic contribution to performance on the accelerating versus the fixed-speed rotarod assay can be completely dissociated under some test conditions, and multiple test parameters are needed to assess the range of genetic influence adequately.

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