Self-motivated and stress-response performance assays in mice are age-dependent
Chronic health conditions of the elderly lead to limitations in physical activity with disability, anxiety, and increased need for medical care and assisted living conditions. Physical performance tests are used to screen for pending loss of mobility and can serve as endpoints to monitor the effectiveness of intervention measures. Since limited mobility is associated with the physical and mental health of a person, evaluation of this in preclinical aging studies in mice will provide a translational approach for testing new intervention strategies. We assessed physiological parameters in 4, 12, 20 and 28 month old C57BL/6 and CB6F1 male mice using a rotating rod, a free running wheel, and a photo beam activity field, designed to determine changes in coordinated walking ability, self-motivated running distance, and anxiety response to a novel environment, respectively. Older mice showed decreased coordinated walking times and decreased running distances, predictive of physical performance ability and motivation in the elderly. Changes in both lateral and vertical movements were observed in a novel cage environment suggesting different levels of anxiety. Because the genetic background of the two mouse strains influenced test results in an age-dependent manner, it is imperative to recognize that diverse genetic backgrounds in mice may yield different data in preclinical studies and would need to be interpreted individually for translational applications.