Cortical and subcortical lesions impair skilled walking in the ladder rung walking test: a new task to evaluate fore- and hindlimb stepping, placing, and co-ordination

J Neurosci Methods. 2002 Apr 15;115(2):169-79. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(02)00012-2.


The ladder rung walking test is a new task to assess skilled walking and measure both forelimb and hindlimb placing, stepping, and inter-limb co-ordination. Rats spontaneously walk from a starting location to a goal along a horizontal ladder. The spacing between the rungs of the ladder is variable and can be changed to prevent the animal from learning either the absolute or relative location of the rungs. The testing procedure requires minimal training and allows detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis using video recording. The utility of the test is described with postoperative data obtained from animals with unilateral neocortical strokes produced by pial stripping over the motor cortex, neonatal and adult unilateral corticospinal tract lesions produced by tract section at the pyramids, and unilateral dopamine depletions produced by injection of 6-hydroxydopamine into the nigrostriatal bundle. In addition, a group of aged rats was examined. Deficits in limb placing, stepping and co-ordination displayed by the animals demonstrate that this test can discriminate between lesions of the motor system or age-associated impairments. The test is useful for assessing loss and recovery of function due to brain or spinal cord injury, the effectiveness of treatment therapies, as well as compensatory processes through which animals adapt to nervous system injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Denervation
  • Dopamine / deficiency
  • Forelimb / physiopathology*
  • Hindlimb / physiopathology*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Videotape Recording


  • Dopamine