Recommendations for measuring whisker movements and locomotion in mice with sensory, motor and cognitive deficits.
BACKGROUND: Previous studies have measured whisker movements and locomotion to characterise mouse models of neurodegenerative disease. However, these studies have always been completed in isolation, and do not involve standardized procedures for comparisons across multiple mouse models and background strains. NEW METHOD: We present a standard method for conducting whisker movement and locomotion studies, by carrying out qualitative scoring and quantitative measurement of whisker movements from high-speed video footage of mouse models of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Cerebellar Ataxia, Somatosensory Cortex Development and Ischemic stroke. RESULTS: Sex, background strain, source breeder and genotype all affected whisker movements. All mouse models, apart from Parkinson's disease, revealed differences in whisker movements during locomotion. R6/2 CAG250 Huntington's disease mice had the strongest behavioural phenotype. Robo3R3-5-CKO and RIM-DKOSert mouse models have abnormal somatosensory cortex development and revealed significant changes in whisker movements during object exploration. COMPARISON WITH EXISTING METHOD(S): Our results have good agreement with past studies, which indicates the robustness and reliability of measuring whisking. We recommend that differences in whisker movements of mice with motor deficits can be captured in open field arenas, but that mice with impairments to sensory or cognitive functioning should also be filmed investigating objects. Scoring clips qualitatively before tracking will help to structure later analyses. CONCLUSIONS: Studying whisker movements provides a quantitative measure of sensing, motor control and exploration. However, the effect of background strain, sex and age on whisker movements needs to be better understood.