Kohler, J., Mei, J., Banneke, S. et al. 2022. Assessing spatial learning and memory in mice: Classic radial maze versus a new animal-friendly automated radial maze allowing free access and not requiring food deprivation. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 16, 1013624.

The radial arm maze (RAM) is a common behavioral test to quantify spatial learning and memory in rodents. Prior attempts to refine the standard experimental setup have been insufficient. Previously, we demonstrated the feasibility of a fully automated, voluntary, and stress-free eight-arm RAM not requiring food or water deprivation. Here, we compared this newly developed refined RAM to a classic manual experimental setup using 24 female 10–12 weeks old C57BL/6J mice. We used a lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced model of systemic inflammation to examine long-term cognitive impairment for up to 13 weeks following LPS injection. Both mazes demonstrated robust spatial learning performance during the working memory paradigm. The refined RAM detected spatial learning and memory deficits among LPS-treated mice in the working memory paradigm, whereas the classic RAM detected spatial learning and memory deficits only in the combined working/reference memory paradigm. In addition, the refined RAM allowed for quantification of an animal’s overall exploratory behavior and day/night activity pattern. While our study highlights important aspects of refinement of the new setup, our comparison of methods suggests that both RAMs have their respective merits depending on experimental requirements.

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