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J Neurosci Methods. 2013 Jan 30;212(2):329-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Nov 23.

The isometric pull task: a novel automated method for quantifying forelimb force generation in rats.

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School of Behavioral Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 West Campbell Road, GR41, Richardson, TX 75080-3021, USA.


Reach-to-grasp tasks are commonly used to assess forelimb function in rodent models. While these tasks have been useful for investigating several facets of forelimb function, they are typically labor-intensive and do not directly quantify physiological parameters. Here we describe the isometric pull task, a novel method to measure forelimb strength and function in rats. Animals were trained to reach outside the cage, grasp a handle attached to a stationary force transducer, and pull with a predetermined amount of force to receive a food reward. This task provides quantitative data on operant forelimb force generation. Multiple parameters can be measured with a high degree of accuracy, including force, success rate, pull attempts, and latency to maximal force. The task is fully automated, allowing a single experimenter to test multiple animals simultaneously with usually more than 300 trials per day, providing more statistical power than most other forelimb motor tasks. We demonstrate that an ischemic lesion in primary motor cortex yields robust deficits in all forelimb function parameters measured with this method. The isometric pull task is a significant advance in operant conditioning systems designed to automate the measurement of multiple facets of forelimb function and assess deficits in rodent models of brain damage and motor dysfunction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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