The Tufts Animal Behavioral Core (ABC) facility is a valued resource that serves neuroscientists within Tufts University and the greater Boston scientific community. Investigators from 44 different laboratories across 11 institutions have taken advantage of the ABC, illustrating its significance as a regional resource. The ABC is supported by a NINDS center core grant to the Tufts Center for Neuroscience Research (CNR;P30 NS047243). The ABC's mission is to provide investigators the resources for evaluating the behavioral consequences of molecular, genetic, and neuropharmacological manipulations with the intention of identifying therapeutic targets for treating central nervous system disorders. The ABC provides local scientists with the equipment, training, and expertise not otherwise available for behavioral testing. In order to ensure the continuation of innovative research among NIH-funded neuroscience investigators, we are requesting one-time equipment funding to purchase a state-of-the-art behavior analysis system for the study of cognition, motivation, anxiety and affect, and drug abuse in mice. The ABC does not currently have the equipment to make operant conditioning methodology available to the research community. Implementing this technique is a logical extension of existing resources and would considerably strengthen the capabilities of investigators using mouse behavior as a scientific endpoint. At present, there are eight neuroscience investigators who will use the operant behavior system. The requested funds would allow for the purchase of an operant conditioning system complete with computers, software, and 16 test chambers equipped with touchscreen response panels designed to assess mouse behaviors relevant to all domains within the neuropsychiatric spectrum, ranging from cognitive deficits and affective disorders to motivation and addiction. Importantly, many of the operant behavior tasks used in animals have analogous versions in the clinical laboratory, exemplifying its high translational value. Data collection is fully automated, thus allowing quantitative and objective behavioral measurements while eliminating observer bias and handling stress. The new equipment will be maintained by the CNR, which provides administrative and financial support for the ABC.
Studies of animal behavior are critical for examining the symptoms that characterize neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Operant behavior is the gold-standard method for assessing translational aspects of molecular and neuropharmacological manipulations relevant to these disorders. Knowledge gained using analysis of operant behavior will contribute to a greater understanding of the neurobiology underlying these devastating disorders and lead to development of effective treatments.