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J Vis Exp. 2017 Sep 28;(127). doi: 10.3791/56341.

The Knob Supination Task: A Semi-automated Method for Assessing Forelimb Function in Rats.

Author information

Burke Medical Research Institute.
Texas Biomedical Center, The University of Texas at Dallas; Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, The University of Texas at Dallas.
Burke Medical Research Institute; Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College; Departments of Neurology and Pediatrics, Weill Cornell Medical College;


Tasks that accurately measure dexterity in animal models are critical to understand hand function. Current rat behavioral tasks that measure dexterity largely use video analysis of reaching or food manipulation. While these tasks are easy to implement and are robust across disease models, they are subjective and laborious for the experimenter. Automating traditional tasks or creating new automated tasks can make the tasks more efficient, objective, and quantitative. Since rats are less dexterous than primates, central nervous system (CNS) injury produces more subtle deficits in dexterity, however, supination is highly affected in rodents and crucial to hand function in primates. Therefore, we designed a semi-automated task that measures forelimb supination in rats. Rats are trained to reach and grasp a knob-shaped manipulandum and turn the manipulandum in supination to receive a reward. Rats can acquire the skill within 20 ± 5 days. While the early part of training is highly supervised, much of the training is done without direct supervision. The task reliably and reproducibly captures subtle deficits after injury and shows functional recovery that accurately reflects clinical recovery curves. Analysis of data is performed by specialized software through a graphical user interface that is designed to be intuitive. We also give solutions to common problems encountered during training, and show that minor corrections to behavior early in training produce reliable acquisition of supination. Thus, the knob supination task provides efficient and quantitative evaluation of a critical movement for dexterity in rats.

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