Automated evaluation of sensitivity to foot shock in mice: inbred strain differences and pharmacological validation

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Assessing foot shock sensitivity in rodents can be useful in identifying analgesic or hyperalgesic drugs, and phenotyping inbred or genetically altered mice. Furthermore, as foot shock is an integral part of several rodent behavioral models, sensitivity should also be assessed to accurately interpret behavioral measures from these models. To eliminate variability and increase the efficiency of manually scored shock sensitivity paradigms, we utilized a startle reflex system to automatically quantify responses to varying levels of foot shock. Eight inbred mouse strains were tested for reactivity to foot shock in this system, as well as inherent startle response activity to loud noise bursts. Strain rank order for shock reactivity differed from that for acoustic startle, suggesting that pathways activated in response to each differed. Analgesic doses of morphine and acetaminophen specifically reduced foot shock responses without affecting motor reflexive responses to loud noises in each strain tested. We also tested diazepam and scopolamine, which are often used to disrupt behavior in shock-related paradigms to illustrate the usefulness of this assay. Overall, these results demonstrate that our automated method is a quick and simple way to accurately assess potential foot shock sensitivity differences owing to strain, genotype or drug treatments.

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