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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Apr 1;229(1):250-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.12.030. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Olfactory classical conditioning in neonatal mouse pups using thermal stimuli.

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Laboratory of Biological Psychology, University of Leuven, Belgium.


Mouse models are increasingly used to investigate genetic contributions to developmental disorders in children, especially newborns. In particular, early cognitive assessment in newborn mice is critical to evaluate pediatric drug efficacy and toxicity. Unfortunately, methods for behavioral tests in newborn mice are scarce. Therefore, developing such tests for newborn mice is a priority challenge for neurogenetics and pharmacological research. The aim of the present study was to develop a conditioning method well suited to high-throughput cognitive screening in newborn mice. To this end, we developed an odor-preference conditioning test using ambient temperature as an unconditioned stimulus (US) and artificial odors as conditioned stimuli (CS). First, we showed that mouse pups move toward the thermoneutral temperature when offered a choice between a thermoneutral and cold environment, thus showing thermotaxis. Second, we conducted a classical conditioning paradigm in pups aged six to ten days. In terms of central nervous system development, this period corresponds to extreme prematurity to early post-term period in humans. During acquisition, the pups were alternatively exposed to odor CS paired with either cold or warm temperatures. Immediately after acquisition, the pups underwent a two-odor choice test, which showed preference for the odor previously paired with the warm temperature, thus showing conditioning. The proposed paradigm is easy to conduct, and requires modest experimenter interference. The method is well suited for high-throughput screening of early associative disorders in newborn mice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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