Short and long-term motor skill learning in an accelerated rotarod training paradigm

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2004 May;81(3):211-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2004.01.001.


Rodent models of motor skill learning include skilled forelimb reaching and acrobatic locomotor paradigms. This study characterizes motor skill learning in the accelerated rotarod task. Thirty Long-Evans rats (300-400 g) were trained on an accelerated rotarod (1cm/s(2)) over eight consecutive sessions (=days, 20 trials each). Improvement in rotarod velocities mastered before falling off the rod was observed within and between sessions (plateau after five sessions). Intrasession improvement was incompletely retained at the beginning of the next day's session. Over several training sessions, intrasession improvement diminished, suggesting a ceiling effect. After 1 week of pause, the rotarod skill was retained. Locomotor exercise in a running wheel for 30 min before the first rotarod session did not affect intrasession improvement. Running-wheel exposure for 6 days did not diminish the rate of rotarod skill learning (steepness of the learning curve) but improved overall performance (upward shift of curve). Video analysis of gait on the rotarod showed that rats developed a motor strategy by modifying their gait patterns during training. The data demonstrate that rotarod improvement is not the result of enhanced general locomotor ability or fitness, which are trained in the running wheel, but requires a change in the motor strategy to master the task. Accelerated rotarod training can be regarded a valid paradigm for motor skill learning over short (intrasession, minutes) and long time frames (intersession, days).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rotarod Performance Test