Profiling psychomotor and cognitive aging in four-way cross mice

Nathalie Sumien, Micaela N. Sims, Hilary J. Taylor, Michael J. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In part due to their genetic uniformity and stable characteristics, inbred rodents or their F1 progeny are frequently used to study brain aging. However, it is recognized that focus on a single genotype could lead to generalizations about brain aging that might not apply to the species as a whole, or to the human population. As a potential alternative to uniform genotypes, genetically heterogeneous (HET) mice, produced by a four-way cross, were tested in the current study to determine if they exhibit age-related declines in cognitive and psychomotor function similar to other rodent models of brain aging. Young (4 months) and older (23 months) CB6F1 × C3D2F1 mice were administered a variety of tests for cognitive, psychomotor, and sensory/reflexive capacities. Spontaneous locomotion, rearing, and ability to turn in an alley all decreased with age, as did behavioral measures sensitive to muscle strength, balance, and motor coordination. Although no effect of age was found for either startle response amplitude or reaction time to shock stimuli, the old mice reacted with less force to low intensity auditory stimuli. When tested on a spatial swim maze task, the old mice learned less efficiently, exhibited poorer retention after a 66-h delay, and demonstrated greater difficulty learning a new spatial location. In addition, the older mice were less able to learn the platform location when it was identified by a local visual cue. Because there was a significant correlation between spatial and cued discrimination performance in the old mice, it is possible that age-related spatial maze learning deficits could involve visual or motor impairments. Variation among individuals increased with age for most tests of psychomotor function, as well as for spatial swim performance, suggesting that four-way cross mice may be appropriate models of individualized brain aging. However, the analysis of spatial maze learning deficits in older CB6F1 × C3D2F1 mice may have limited applicability in the study of brain aging, because of a confounding with visually cued performance deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-282
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • BALB/c
  • BCCD HET mice
  • Brain aging
  • C3H
  • C57BL/6
  • CB6F1 × C3D2F1
  • DBA/2
  • Psychomotor function
  • Spatial memory
  • Visual function


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