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Genome. 2006 Jun;49(6):666-77.

Hand-preference training in the mouse reveals key elements of its learning and memory process and resolves the phenotypic complexity in the behaviour.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Population Genomics Research Group, Institute of Maternal and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Health Sciences Centre, 3330 Hospital Drive N.W., Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada.


Handedness in the mouse comprises 2 different behaviours. Some strains have a conditional behaviour, in that the mice learn a direction of hand preference in response to reaching for food, whereas other strains have an innate or constitutive behaviour, and prior experience has no measurable effect on their hand preference. However, hybrids from different strains have revealed both recessive and dominant forms of constitutive hand preference. We proposed that kinetic parameters of the learning process would resolve this genetic heterogeneity as well as the phenotypic complexity in the behaviour. We conducted and report here a detailed kinetic analysis of hand-preference training in the C57BL/6J strain. It revealed elements of the fundamental process of learning and long-term memory that underlies the behaviour by documenting consolidation of memory, blocking of this consolidation by an inhibitor of protein synthesis, retention of memory, and speed of learning in response to training reaches. Furthermore, speed of learning is clearly described by 2 parameters that we call "capacity" (or maximum amount of learned preference) and "ability" (or number of training reaches to achieve half the capacity). These 2 kinetic parameters can vary independently among genetically different strains that learn a preference, and we used them to demonstrate that the respective recessive and dominant forms of constitutive hand-preference may be the consequence of a true null or loss of function and a gain of function, possibly a memory regulator, in the learning process. The quantitative measures provide a sensitive and selective method to establish the fundamental learning process underlying mouse hand preference and to demonstrate empirically how genes and contextual environment shape its phenotypic complexity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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