Detecting behavioral deficits in rats after traumatic brain injury

Nicole Hausser, Kathia Johnson, Margaret A. Parsley, Jutatip Guptarak, Heidi Spratt, Stacy L. Sell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


With the increasing incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in both civilian and military populations, TBI is now considered a chronic disease; however, few studies have investigated the long-term effects of injury in rodent models of TBI. Shown here are behavioral measures that are well-established in TBI research for times early after injury, such as two weeks, until two months. Some of these methods have previously been used at later times after injury, up to one year, but by very few laboratories. The methods demonstrated here are a short neurological assessment to test reflexes, a Beam-Balance to test balance, a Beam-Walk to test balance and motor coordination, and a working memory version of the Morris water maze that can be sensitive to deficits in reference memory. Male rats were handled and pre-trained to neurological, balance, and motor coordination tests prior to receiving parasagittal fluid percussion injury (FPI) or sham injury. Rats can be tested on the short neurological assessment (neuroscore), the beam-balance, and the Beam-Walk multiple times, while testing on the water maze can only be done once. This difference is because rats can remember the task, thus confounding the results if repeated testing is attempted in the same animal. When testing from one to three days after injury, significant differences are detected in all three non-cognitive tasks. However, differences in the Beam-Walk task were not detectable at later time points (after 3 months). Deficits were detected at 3 months in the Beam-Balance and at 6 months in the neuroscore. Deficits in working memory were detected out to 12 months after injury, and a deficit in a reference memory first appeared at 12 months. Thus, standard behavioral tests can be useful measures of persistent behavioral deficits after FPI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere56044
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number131
StatePublished - Jan 30 2018


  • Beam-balance
  • Beam-walk
  • Behavior
  • Behavior
  • Brain injury
  • Fluid-percussion injury
  • Issue 131
  • Morris water maze
  • Neuroscore
  • Rat
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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