Behavioral Research Blog

10 Innovative behavioral studies on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Posted by G. Smit on Mar 17, 2015

ratTomorrow the 12th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (ADPD) in Nice, France starts. Last week I blogged about a study on Ginkgo biloba and Alzheimer's, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight some more studies and get you in the mood for the conference. This blog post features 10 interesting studies that use innovative techniques to study models of AD and PD and important underlying neuronal mechanisms.

Gait analysis and locomotion

Several methods can measure gait and locomotion, and using an automated one gives researchers many advantages. Let’s start with a recently developed technique called the ErasmusLadder method: a horizontal ladder with rungs that measures the motor performance but also learning abilities of mice. One of the great advantages of this method is that it is non-invasive.

Specifically studying the cerebellum

Vinueza Veloz et al.  used this method to study the role of Purkinje cells, interneurons and granule cells of the cerebellar cortex in motor learning and adaptation, motivation, and avoidance behavior in several mouse strains. Read more about this research here.

Motor deficits in Alzheimer’s

Sepulveda-Falla et al. described the study of a kindred of people in Colombia, in which 12% had Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). Clinical tests were complemented with ErasmusLadder testing, using APPsw/PS1Δ9 mice that showed deficits in both motor performance and associative motor learning. Read more here.

Here is a list of studies that also use this ErasmusLadder method. You can also download this free case study.

Free case study:  Cerebellar plasticity in mice

Illuminated footprints

Another methods that measures gait is the CatWalk method, only this time a glass plate is combined with a light and a camera to capture the actual footprints on video. Researchers have used this to get data on anything from print dimensions to the time and distance relationships between footfalls.

Parkinson’s gait studied in different models

Zhou et al. used three different oxidopamine injection sites to create PD mice and evaluated their gait with the CatWalk method and compare the results with clinical symptoms. Read more here.  

Creating an AD mice model

Plucinska et al. created AD-like endophenotypes in mice by expression of human bace1. Gait testing revealed only minor differences in gait in these animals, implicating no major motor impairments in this transgenic model.

More studies using the CatWalk method can be found here.

Video tracking

Video tracking technology has proven useful in many studies of behavior, including movement and memory related studies on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Effects of typical PD treatment

For example, Sgroi et al. used video tracking to investigate the link between two of the major long-term effects of the typical L-DOPA (levodopa) treatment: dyskinesia and motor fluctuations. Their results suggest different neural underpinnings. Nikolaus and her colleagues also did research on L-DOPA in relation to motor and exploratory behavior in rats. Read about both studies here.

Caffeine helps AD mice remember

Laurent et al. investigated the effects of caffeine on a transgenic mouse model with progressive AD-like tau pathology, and found that caffeine helped to maintain spatial navigation memory in tau-impaired mice. They used video tracking and water maze testing. Read more here.

The link between AD and diabetes

Serena Abbondante and her colleagues investigated the protein tau as a possible link between AD and diabeter, because according to them, recent evidence from animal models of diabetes shows that impaired insulin signaling causes tau hyperphosphorylation. Read about their study here.

If you are interested in video tracking for your research, you can find a list of studies using the EthoVision XT software here. Or you can try it out for yourself with this free trial version.

Try video tracking for free!

Parkinson’s studied in zebrafish

As seen in the examples above, rat and mouse models have proven to be very valuable in AD and PD research. Another animal that has helped the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of PD, is the zebrafish

Zhao and colleagues studied bradykinesia using a PARK15 (atypical early-onset parkinsonism) zebrafish model. They used a DanioVision system that includes an environment for testing larvae in multi-well plates and a video tracking system. Morphants were less active or showed no locomotion at all. A typical apomorhpine treatment of PD restored the level of activity completely. Read more here.

Lopes de Fonseca et al. reported on an interesting point mutation that has been linked to cases of familial PD. Zebrafish also express this gene, and this study using DanioVision showed that it plays a crucial role in embryonic development. Read more here

Topics: EthoVision XT, mice, Alzheimer's disease, Video tracking, zebrafish, Danio rerio, DanioVision, Parkinson's Disease, learning and memory, rats, CatWalk XT, gait analysis, locomotion, top 10, ErasmusLadder, reflexive motor learning, motor performance

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