The Automated Pull-Force Task: An Open-Source, High-Throughput Forelimb Motor Function Assay for Rodents

Braxton Goodnight, Rameen Forghani, Dr. Charles Latchoumane, Dr. Lohitash Karumbaiah, Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia, 425 River Rd, Athens, GA 30602

In rodent models of neurological injury, forelimb motor tasks are ubiquitous as they can provide a targeted end-point quantification of loss of function, describe patterns of recovery, and delineate the efficacy of treatment. Despite their pervasiveness, many common assays such as the single-pellet skilled reach task are labor-intensive and subject to significant experimenter bias. As a result, several automated alternatives have been proposed that minimize experimenter intervention. The isometric pull-force task (PFT) is especially appealing when compared to others due to the low mechanical effort required to implement this task and the auxiliary ability to characterize strength deficiencies following injury. The PFT includes a grasp handle that a rodent must reach, grasp, and pull in order to obtain a food reward. However, the software and/or hardware required to execute current PFTs are often not made publicly available, are expensive to purchase, or are difficult to implement, decreasing the replicative power of the studies utilizing these assays. To address this gap, we present a reliable, custom-made force-pull assay that includes open-source software and hardware specifications that can be readily assembled using inexpensive, commercially available products and materials. We demonstrate that our system can effectively train rats to plateauing reach performance using an established, discrete-stage training protocol, validating the reliability and training capacity of our system. Importantly, our software includes a framework for which additional training protocols may be integrated to replace discrete-stage training, such as auto-adaptive stage training or machine learning-driven training. Maximizing data quality is essential for determining the efficacy of potential therapeutics for neurological injuries. The open-source system described here aims to achieve this objective by providing a high-throughput solution that is modular, low cost, and requires only minimal experimenter supervision to rigorously investigate forelimb motor function in preclinical rodent studies of traumatic brain injury and ischemic stroke. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Braxton Goodnight

Institution: University of Georgia

Type: Poster

Subject: Biology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 3
Date/Time: Mon 4:30pm-5:30pm
Session Number: 3020