Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 1069 Views Aug 20, 2022

C. elegans shows robust and reproducible behavioral responses to oxygen. Specifically, worms prefer O2 levels of 5–10% and avoid too high or too low O2. Their O2 preference is not fixed but shows plasticity depending on experience, context, or genetic background. We recently showed that this experience-dependent plasticity declines with age, providing a useful behavioral readout for studying the mechanisms of age-related decline of neural plasticity. Here, we describe a technique to visualize behavioral O2 preference and its plasticity in C. elegans, by creating spatial gradients of [O2] in a microfluidic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) chamber and recording the resulting spatial distribution of the animals.

0 Q&A 1452 Views Feb 5, 2022

Repeated social defeat stress (RSDS) is a model of chronic stress in rodents. There are several variants of social defeat procedures that exert robust effects in mice, but few published detailed protocols to produce a robust stress and altered immunological profile in rats. In this article, we describe the protocol for the induction of RSDS in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Using a resident-intruder paradigm, a physical component of stress is induced by direct attack from the resident aggressive retired breeder Long-Evans rats on the intruder experimental rats. A subsequent threat component is induced by the presence of the aggressor in the vicinity of the intruder, but with physical separation between them. The RSDS induced by this protocol produces robust immunological and behavioral changes in the experimental rats, as evidenced by development of anxiety-like behaviors in open field, social interaction, and elevated plus maze tests, as well as by changes in immune parameters (Munshi et al., 2020). This approach has been used as an ethologically relevant model of stressors that are potent enough to impact neural circuits that are similar to the neural circuits impacted in patients with depression and anxiety.

0 Q&A 2062 Views Oct 5, 2021

One of the cardinal features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a paradoxical memory alteration including both emotional hypermnesia for salient trauma-related cues and amnesia for the surrounding traumatic context. Interestingly, some clinical studies have suggested that contextual amnesia would causally contribute to the PTSD-related hypermnesia insofar as decontextualized, traumatic memory is prone to be reactivated in contexts that can be very different from the original traumatic context. However, most current animal models of PTSD-related memory focus exclusively on the emotional hypermnesia, i.e., the persistence of a strong fear memory, and do not distinguish normal (adaptive) from pathological (PTSD-like) fear memory, leaving unexplored the hypothetical critical role of contextual amnesia in PTSD-related memory formation, and thus challenging the development of innovative treatments. Having developed the first animal model that precisely recapitulates the two memory components of PTSD in mice (emotional hypermnesia and contextual amnesia), we recently demonstrated that contextual amnesia, induced by optogenetic inhibition of the hippocampus (dorsal CA1), is a causal cognitive process of PTSD-like hypermnesia formation. Moreover, the hippocampus-dependent contextualization of traumatic memory, by optogenetic activation of dCA1 in traumatic condition, prevents PTSD-like hypermnesia formation. Finally, once PTSD-like memory has been formed, the re-contextualization of traumatic memory by its reactivation in the original traumatic context normalizes this pathological fear memory. Revealing the key role of contextual amnesia in PTSD-like memory, this procedure opens a therapeutic perspective based on trauma contextualization and the underlying hippocampal mechanisms.

0 Q&A 2732 Views May 20, 2021

Models of drug addiction in rodents are instrumental in understanding the underlying neurobiology. Intravenous self-administration of drugs in mice is currently the most commonly used model; however, several challenges exist due to complications related to catheter patency. To take full advantage of the genetic tools available to study opioid addiction in mice, we developed a non-invasive mouse model of opioid self-administration using vaporized fentanyl. This model can be used to study various aspects of opioid addiction including self-administration, escalation of drug intake, extinction, reinstatement, and drug seeking despite adversity. Further, this model bypasses the limitations of intravenous self-administration and allows the investigation of drug taking over extended periods of time and in conjunction with cutting-edge techniques such as calcium imaging and in vivo electrophysiology.

0 Q&A 2416 Views Mar 20, 2021

Space and time are both essential features of episodic memory. However, while spatial tasks have been used effectively to study the behavioral relevance of place cells, the behavioral paradigms utilized for the study of time cells have not used time duration as a variable that animals need to be aware of to solve the task. In order to evaluate how time flow is coded into memory, time duration needs to be a variable that animals use to solve the behavioral task. This protocol describes a novel behavioral paradigm, the time duration discrimination (TDD) task, which is designed to directly investigate the neurological mechanisms that underlie temporal processing. During the TDD task, rats navigate around a Figure-8 Maze, which contains a rectangular track with a central arm and a delay box at the end of the central arm. While confined to the delay box, rats experience a 10- or 20-second time delay, during which a tone will play for the duration of the 10- or 20-second delay. When the delay box opens, the rat will choose whether to turn left or right out of the delay box and receive a reward for the correct choice (e.g., 10 seconds = left turn; 20 seconds = right turn). By directly manipulating elapsed time, we can better explore the behavioral relevance of hippocampal time cells and whether the time-dependent activity seen in physiological recordings of hippocampal neurons reflects a neuronal representation of time flow that can be used by the animal for learning and storing memories.

Graphic abstract:

Elapsed time duration discrimination in rats

0 Q&A 2907 Views Dec 5, 2020

Epidemiological studies robustly show the beneficial effects of maternal exercise in reducing maternal birth complications and improving neonatal outcomes, though underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. To facilitate mechanistic exploration, a protocol for maternal exercise of mice is established, with the regimen following the exercise guidelines for pregnant women. Compared to volunteer wheel running, treadmill running allows precise control of exercise intensity and duration, dramatically reducing variations among individual mouse within treatments and facilitating translation into maternal exercise in humans. Based on the maximal oxygen consumption rate (VO2max) before pregnancy, the treadmill exercise protocol is separated into three stages: early stage (E1.5 to E7.5 at 40% VO2max), mid stage (E8.5 to E14.5 at 65% VO2max), and late stage of pregnancy (E15.5 to birth at 50% VO2max), which demonstrated persistent beneficial effects on maternal health and fetal development. This protocol can be useful for standardizing maternal treadmill exercise using mice as an experimental model.

0 Q&A 3871 Views Oct 5, 2020
The study of food addiction comprises 3 hallmarks that include the persistence to response without an outcome, the strong motivation for palatable food, and the loss of inhibitory control over food intake that leads to compulsive behavior in addicted individuals. The complex multifactorial nature of this disorder and the unknown neurobiological mechanistic correlation explains the lack of effective treatments. Our operant conditioning model allows deciphering why some individuals are vulnerable and develop food addiction while others are resilient and do not. It is a translational approach since it is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5) and the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS 2.0). This model allows to evaluate the addiction criteria in 2 time-points at an early and a late period by grouping them into 1) persistence to response during a period of non-availability of food, 2) motivation for food with a progressive ratio, and 3) compulsivity when the reward is associated with a punishment such as an electric foot-shock. The advantage of this model is that it allows us to measure 4 phenotypic traits suggested as predisposing factors related to vulnerability to addiction. Also, it is possible to evaluate the long food addiction mouse model with mice genetically modified. Importantly, the novelty of this protocol is the adaptation of this food addiction model to a short protocol to evaluate genetic manipulations targeting specific brain circuitries by using a chemogenetic approach that could promote the rapid development of this addictive behavior. These adaptations lead to a short food addiction mouse protocol, in which mice follow the same behavioral procedure of the early period in the long food addiction protocol with some variations due to the surgical viral vector injection. To our knowledge, there is no paradigm in mice allowing us to study the combination of such a robust behavioral approach that allows uncovering the neurobiology of food addiction at the brain circuit level. We can study using this protocol if modifying the excitability of a specific brain network confers resilience or vulnerability to developing food addiction. Understanding these neurobiological mechanisms is expected to help to find novel and efficient interventions to battle food addiction.
0 Q&A 3017 Views Sep 20, 2020
Songbirds, such as the zebra finch, are a popular animal model for studying the neural basis of vocal and complex skill learning. Adult male zebra finches produce courtship song toward females (referred to as ‘directed song’) and recording and analyzing sounds of directed song along with underlying neural activity is important for investigating behavioral and neural mechanisms of song production and learning. However, recording of directed song is easily contaminated by calls that are often as loud as directed songs and frequently produced by a female bird is presented in the same sound-recording chamber to elicit directed song. We developed a new surgical procedure to relatively easily and almost completely devocalize female zebra finches semi-permanently, without affecting other behaviors. This procedure enables researchers to record directed songs with almost no contamination by female calls. The procedure can also be used to devocalize male birds as well and, thus, has great potential for a variety of experimental purposes, such as long-term elimination of auditory feedback during singing in male birds.
0 Q&A 2741 Views Sep 5, 2020
Animals keep track of time intervals in the seconds to minutes range with, on average, high accuracy but substantial trial-to-trial variability. The ability to detect the statistical signatures of such timing behavior is an indispensable feature of a good and theoretically-tractable testing procedure. A widely used interval timing procedure is the peak interval (PI) procedure, where animals learn to anticipate rewards that become available after a fixed delay. After learning, they cluster their responses around that reward-availability time. The in-depth analysis of such timed anticipatory responses leads to the understanding of an internal timing mechanism, that is, the processing dynamics and systematic biases of the brain’s clock. This protocol explains in detail how the PI procedure can be implemented in rodents, from training through testing to analysis. We showcase both trial-by-trial and trial-averaged analytical methods as a window into these internal processes. This protocol has the advantages of capturing timing behavior in its full-complexity in a fashion that allows for a theoretical treatment of the data.
0 Q&A 4463 Views Sep 5, 2020
Respiratory dysfunction is among the main cause of severe and fatal pathologies worldwide. The use of effective experimental models and methodologies for the study of the pulmonary pathophysiology is necessary to prevent, control and cure these diseases. Plethysmography, a technique for the assessment of lung function, has been widely applied in mice for the characterization of respiratory physiology. However, classical plethysmography methods present technical limitations such as the use of anesthesia and animal immobilization. Whole-body plethysmography (WBP) avoids these issues providing a non-invasive approach for the assessment of the respiratory function in conscious animals. WBP relies on the recording of pressure changes that are produced by the spontaneous breathing activity of an animal placed inside an airtight chamber. During normal respiration, pressure variation is directly proportional to the respiratory pattern of the animal allowing the measurement of the respiratory rate and tidal volume. These parameters are commonly used to evaluate pulmonary function in different physiological and disease models. In contrast to classical plethysmography methods, WBP technique allows reproducible serial measurements as it avoids animal restraint or the use of anesthesia. These key features rend WBP a suitable approach for longitudinal studies allowing the assessment of progressive respiratory alterations in physiological and pathological conditions. This protocol describes the procedures for the measurement of the breathing patterns in mice using the WBP method, the data analysis and results interpretation.

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