Animal test systems to study behavioral dysfunctions of neurodegenerative disorders

W. K. Anger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The Eighth International Neurotoxicology Conference, Role of Toxicants in Neurological Disorders (1990), evaluated the evidence that chemical exposures may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders. This article describes the major neurodegenerative disorders (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Huntington disease, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease) addressed at the conference, followed by a description of test systems or models developed to study behavioral aspects of these disorders in animals. However, due to the complexity of the disorders and the species in which they are found, fully-developed models in animals of neurodegenerative disorders are lacking. This suggests the need for a clear strategy for selecting behavioral tests in animals to study aspects of any neurodegenerative disorders. Such a strategy is here exemplified for Alzheimer disease (AD) as a prototypical neurodegenerative disorder. Since an animal model cannot provide the full range of effects of human neurodegenerative diseases, particularly AD which produces incompletely characterized cognitive deficits, a rodent model must at this time be drawn from multiple sources, including: (1) Tests currently used to identify in rodents deficits associated with AD; (2) tests to identify Alzheimer-related signs in patients; and, (3) tests that relate to theoretical constructs of human and animal cognition. A battery that draws from those sources could include tests of: (a) Spatial learning and memory (Morris Water Maze and Radial Arm Maze), (b) delayed recall match-to-sample; (c) serial response learning; and, (d) visual discrimination (e.g., vertical vs. horizontal stimuli). This battery will identify behavioral changes characteristic of early-, middle- and late-stage AD, afford the potential to relate the findings to theoretical constructs of cognition, and evaluate learning capabilities not previously studied in rodent models of neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-414
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991


  • ALS
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Huntington disease
  • Parkinson disease
  • animal models
  • cognition
  • memory
  • neurodegenerative disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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