Tactile and Olfactory Assessment

For some genetically engineered mouse models, it may be important to differentiate between transgenic mice and wild-type controls in their ability to either feel or taste the world around them. There are simple "paperclip" assays designed for investigators interested in phenotyping and assessing the tactile and olfactory abilities of their mutant mice. Touch is evaluated through the use of the reflexive twitch response to Von Frey hairs exam in which fine wires of gradually increasing thickness are touched to the paw. Another part of the touch mechanism is the ability to feel pain through the sensory nerves of the body. The timed response to pick up or lick a paw placed on a hot plate or to move the tail out of the path of a high-intensity light beam are both indicators of the ability of an animal to feel and respond to pain.16 A basic exam of olfactory ability is timing the retrieval of a buried food source. Another simple exam is measuring the amount of time spent sniffing a novel odor.22 More extensive exams of smell involve learning in conditioned reward choice paradigms where a mouse must learn to press a lever in response to the smell of food or a female in heat.16

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