Identification of mouse gaits using a novel force-sensing exercise wheel

Smith, B J H and Cullingford, L and Usherwood, J R (2015) Identification of mouse gaits using a novel force-sensing exercise wheel. Journal of Applied Physiology, 119 (6). pp. 704-718.

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Abstract

The gaits that animals use can provide information on neurological and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as the biomechanics of locomotion. Mice are a common research model in many fields; however, there is no consensus in the literature on how (and if) mouse gaits vary with speed. One of the challenges in studying mouse gaits is that mice tend to run intermittently on treadmills or overground; this paper attempts to overcome this issue with a novel exercise wheel that measures vertical ground reaction forces. Unlike previous instrumented wheels, this wheel is able to measure forces continuously and can therefore record data from consecutive strides. By concatenating the maximum limb force at each time point, a force trace can be constructed to quantify and identify gaits. The wheel was three dimensionally printed, allowing the design to be shared with other researchers. The kinematic parameters measured by the wheel were evaluated using high-speed video. Gaits were classified using a metric called “3S” (stride signal symmetry), which quantifies the half wave symmetry of the force trace peaks. Although mice are capable of using both symmetric and asymmetric gaits throughout their speed range, the continuum of gaits can be divided into regions based on the frequency of symmetric and asymmetric gaits; these divisions are further supported by the fact that mice run less frequently at speeds near the boundaries between regions. The boundary speeds correspond to gait transition speeds predicted by the hypothesis that mice move in a dynamically similar fashion to other legged animals.