Age, experience and genetic background influence treadmill walking in mice.

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Aging, Animals, Exercise-Test, Female, Learning, Locomotion, Mice-Inbred-Strains, Posture, Species-Specificity

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Physiol Behav 2009 Feb; 96(2):350-61.


The use of a treadmill to gather data for gait analysis in mice is a convenient, sensitive method to evaluate motor performance. However, evidence from several species, including mice, shows that treadmill locomotion is a novel task that is not equivalent to over ground locomotion and that may be particularly sensitive to the test environment and protocol. We investigated the effects of age, genetic background and repeated trials on treadmill walking in mice and show that these factors are important considerations in the interpretation of gait data. Specifically we report that as C57BL/6J (B6) mice age, the animals use progressively longer, less frequent strides to maintain the same walking speed. The increase is most rapid between 1 and 6 months of age and is explained, in part, by changes in size and weight. We also extended previous findings showing that repeat trials cause mice to modify their treadmill gait pattern. In a second trial B6 mice consistently walk with a shorter swing phase and greater duty factor. Also, with the shortest retest interval (3 min) mice use shorter more frequent steps but the response varies with the number and timing of trials. Finally, we compared the gait pattern of an additional seven inbred strains of mice and found significant variation in the length and frequency of strides used to maintain the same walking speed. The combined results offer the bases for further mechanistic studies and can be used to guide optimal experimental design.