Behavior Testing Core


Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Behavior Testing Core - Resources


Behavioral Assays – Sensory/Motor Tests

An assortment of tests measuring sensory and motor performance can determine gross function as well as more precise targets such as lateralized motor movement and coordination.

Balance Wall
Measures balance, coordination, and distance traveled along a narrow platform
Cylinder Test
Measures cerebral asymmetry in forelimb motor function. Typically used in stroke, Parkinson’s, and brain tumor models. Suggested whenever lateralized motor abnormalities are suspected
Grip Strength
Quantifies grip force ability in forelimbs and hindlimbs
Ladder Challenge
Motor function, coordination, balance
Neurological Screen
Basic screen for gross sensory and locomotor function
Open Field
Automated evaluation of gross locomotor activity. First level assessment of motor function or for screening sedative effects of pharmacotherapy
Visual acuity and contrast thresholds
Motor function, coordination, balance
Measures rotational asymmetry following unilateral changes to the central nervous system
Motor function, coordination, agility
Visual Cliff Test
Determines gross visual function

Behavioral Assays – Learning and Memory

Cognitive tests utilize standard measures of learning and memory that target global or specific modalities of memory, including the 5 senses and spatial memory.

Barnes Maze
Hippocampal task tracking memory acquisition, retrieval, and reversal
Fear Conditioning
Operant conditioning task evaluating context and cue induced learning and memory
Morris Water Maze
Hippocampal task tracking memory acquisition, retrieval, and reversal
Novel Object Recognition
Object recognition memory task
Passive Avoidance
Examines associative learning and memory through response inhibition by an aversive event
Standard test for measuring working spatial memory

Behavioral Assays – Complex Behaviors

Complex behaviors are measured by eliciting species-specific social or “emotional” responses from animals, such as apathy and fear. These behaviors are validated by the ability to alter them with the same known genetic markers or psychoactive drugs that mediate the behavior in humans.

Elevated Plus Maze
Standard screening tool for detecting antidepressant- or antianxiety-like activity in mice
Light/Dark Box
Tests anxiety-like behaviors in rodents
Pre-Pulse Inhibition
Measures natural inhibition of fear induced arousal elicited by pre-exposure to a similar arousing stimulus. This innate mechanism is disturbed in stress and schizophrenia models
Social Interaction Apparatus
Used in the Social Interaction, Social Recognition, and Sociability tests. These tests measure sociability markers in mice and are typically used to detect abnormalities in social development (ie autism, maternal stress, William’s syndrome)
Spontaneous Self-Grooming
Tests repetitive behavior in models of autism and other developmental abnormalities
Tests perseveration in models of autism and other developmental abnormalities