Background: Large mammals with complex central nervous systems offer new possibilities for translational research into basic brain function. Techniques for monitoring brain activity in large mammals, however, are not as well developed as they are in rodents.
New method: We have developed a method for chronic monitoring of electroencephalographic (EEG) activity in unrestrained sheep. We describe the methods for behavioural training prior to implantation, surgical procedures for implantation, a protocol for reliable anaesthesia and recovery, methods for EEG data collection, as well as data pertaining to suitability and longevity of different types of electrodes.
Results: Sheep tolerated all procedures well, and surgical complications were minimal. Electrode types used included epidural and subdural screws, intracortical needles and subdural disk electrodes, with the latter producing the best and most reliable results. The implants yielded longitudinal EEG data of consistent quality for periods of at least a year, and in some cases up to 2 years.
Comparison with existing methods: This is the first detailed methodology to be described for chronic brain function monitoring in freely moving unrestrained sheep.
Conclusions: The developed method will be particularly useful in chronic investigations of brain activity during normal behaviour that can include sleep, learning and memory. As well, within the context of disease, the method can be used to monitor brain pathology or the progress of therapeutic trials in transgenic or natural disease models in sheep.
Keywords: Behaviour; Epilepsy; Huntington’s disease; Large animal; Neurodegenerative disease; Ovine; Pig; Sleep.
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