Sensorimotor Function Assays

Balance Beam

Motor coordination is assessed as the latency to cross the balance beam and the number of slips made while crossing (28, 29). Typically, several beams of varying difficulty (the thinner the beam, the harder the task) are used and introduced in a randomized design.

Grip Strength

Motor function can be assessed as the latency to fall when suspended from a wire (30-34). We have also developed a more sensitive measure of grip using the latency to release various weights when the weight is held in the forepaw using several weights (35).

Parallel Rod Floor

The parallel rod floor test automatically assesses motor coordination and allows the simultaneous measurement of ataxia and locomotor activity. It measure foot faults (slips from the rods to the contact plate below) over the total distance traveled (assessed by a camera and tracking software) (36).


Analyzing the latency to fall from a rotating, accelerating rod can test motor coordination.  Motor learning is evident by increased latency to fall over a series of trials, and can be assessed by examining the improvement over time (multiple trials and/or multiple days).  Motor skill memory can also be tested after suitable retention intervals between training and testing trials (37).


Some tasks that address visual function include the visual cliff and visual placing. The visual cliff assesses a rodent’s reluctance to approach a precipice, with the premise that normally sighted animals will not cross to the apparent drop. Visual placing utilizes a rodent’s natural inclination to reach for a substrate when suspended by the tail (38-40).

Gait Analysis

Using a high-speed camera and footprint identification software (41), measures of gait and stance can be assessed across lifespan, at different developmental stages, in genetically engineered or surgically manipulated subjects (42).

Tape Removal Test – Fine Motor Coordination

Subtle deficits in fine motor coordination and sensorimotor function can be assessed by the adhesive tape removal test. First developed to investigate stimulus-directed movement asymmetries resulting from unilateral nigrostriatal damage, the adhesive removal test is now commonly used to assess deficits in fine motor coordination and sensory function in many other models. The primary measures are the latency to contact the tape (contact latency) and the latency to remove the tape (removal latency) – that reflect sensory and fine motor function respectively (43, 44).

Sunflower Seed Test – Skilled Forelimb and Oromotor Function

Rats and mice typically manipulate a sunflower seed with their forelimbs, bite a corner of the seed or split it longitudinally (into two pieces), and then eat the seed (45, 46). An intact subject can typically shell and eat five seeds in approximately 30–35 s with an average of few leftover shell pieces (47). However, limb and oromotor deficits can interfere with this process, leading to increased shell pieces and increased time to complete the task (47).


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