Objective: Measuring motor function in mice is important for studying models of spinal cord injury (SCI) or other diseases. Several methods exist based on visual observation of mice moving in an open field. Though these methods require very little equipment, observers must be trained, and the possibility of human error or subjectivity cannot be eliminated. The Noldus CatWalk XT Automated Gait Analysis system assesses mouse motor function by taking high-resolution videos of the mice, with specialized software to measure several aspects of the animal's gait. This instrument reduces the possibility of human error, but it is not always clear what data is important for assessing motor function. This study used data collected during mouse SCI experiments to create a simple mathematical model that combines the data collected by the CatWalk system into a single score, the Combined CatWalk Index or CCI.
Results: The CCI system produces similar results to the Basso Mouse Scale or the CatWalk's Step Sequence Regularity Index. However, the CCI has a significantly smaller coefficient of variation than either other method. Additionally, CCI scoring shows slightly better correlation with impact force. The CCI system is likely to be a useful tool for SCI research.
Keywords: CatWalk; Combined Catwalk Index; Locomotor function; Mouse; New scoring; Spinal cord injury.