Richard E. Brown
Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience,
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Time: Wednesday 6th March, 16:00 - 17:00
Behavioural assays are essential in neuroscience, but many behavioural studies involve "behavioural testing" rather than "behavioural bioassays". What is the difference? A behavioural test collects data on behaviour in an apparatus such as the open field or elevated plus maze. The apparatus, procedure and methods of data collection are not standardized and the inter-laboratory reliability is often poor. When the results are interpreted, their validity is largely unknown. A behavioural bioassay, on the other hand, is a standardized test procedure which focuses on a single question, such as "What is the visual acuity of this animal?" The purpose of this workshop is to examine and discuss the different behavioural tests used in neuroscience and determine which meet the criteria of "behavioural bioassays" and which do not and to make recommendations for the use of reliable and valid behavioural tests to be used as behavioural bioassays.
We will start the workshop with a short lecture on the nature of the problem given by Richard Brown and then have members of the audience give ad-hoc presentations on their work. At the end of the workshop, we should be able to produce a short paper on the issues and give our recommendations.
Discussion questions: A baker's dozen.
1. What are the differences between a behavioural test and a behavioural bioassay? Make a list
2. What are the most reliable and valid behavioural tests for sensory systems? What aspect of sensory perception does each test measure? Are the results highly correlated between two tests for the same sensory function? What is the optimal test and can it be termed a behavioural bioassay?
3. What are the most reliable and valid behavioural tests for motor systems? What aspect of motor behaviour does each test measure? Are the results highly correlated between two tests for the same motor function? What is the optimal test and can it be termed a behavioural bioassay?
4. How well do behavioural tests measure "psychological" functions?
5. How well do the results of behavioural tests correlate with physiological measures?
6. How well do behavioural test results correlate with brain damage?
7. Which behavioural tests can be used reliably to identify brain damage and repair?
8. What goes wrong with behavioural tests, how can errors be detected and eliminated?
9. How many experiments must be done to identify and determine the parameters of a new behavioural test before it can be considered a reliable and valid behavioural bioassay?
10. Can we make checklists for the use of behavioural bioassays and for the reduction of errors?
11. What kind of errors are made in behavioural testing?
12. Can the same tests be used on all species or are they species-specific?
13. Can the use of reliable and valid behavioural bioassays improve the translation of animal studies to human problems?
Schellinck, H. M., Cyr. D.P. and Brown, R.E. How many ways can mouse behavioral experiments go wrong? Confounding variables in mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases and how to control them. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 2010, 41, 255-366.
Gunn, R.K., Keenan, M-E., and Brown, R.E. Analysis of sensory, motor and cognitive functions of the Coloboma (C3H/HeSnJ-cm) mutant mouse. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 2011, 10, 579-588.
O’Leary, T.P. and Brown, R.E. The effects of apparatus design and test procedure on learning and memory performance of C57BL/6J mice on the Barnes maze. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 2012, 203 (2), 315-324.
.O’Leary, T.P. and Brown, R.E. Optimization of apparatus design and behavioural measures for the assessment of visuo-spatial learning and memory of mice on the Barnes maze. Learning and Memory, 2013, 20, 85-96.
O'Leary, T.P. , Gunn, R.K., and Brown, R.E. What are we measuring when we test strain differences in anxiety in mice? Behavior Genetics, 2013, 43, 34-50.
Brown, RE and Bolivar, S. The importance of behavioural bioassays in neuroscience. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.05.022