Behavioral profiles of inbred strains on novel olfactory, spatial and emotional tests for reference memory in mice

A. Holmes, C. C. Wrenn, A. P. Harris, K. E. Thayer, Jacqueline Crawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

218 Scopus citations


Studying the behavior of genetic background strains provides important information for the design and interpretation of cognitive phenotypes in mutant mice. Our experiments examined the performance of three commonly used strains (C57BL/6J, 129S6, DBA/2J) on three behavioral tests for learning and memory that measure very different forms of memory, and for which there is a lack of data on strain differences. In the social transmission of food preference test (STFP) all three strains demonstrated intact memory for an odorcued food that had been sampled on the breath of a cagemate 24 hours previously. While C57BL/ 6J and 129S6 mice showed good trace fear conditioning, DBA/2J mice showed a profound deficit on trace fear conditioning. In the Barnes maze test for spatial memory, the 129S6 strain showed poor probe trial performance, relative to C57BL/6J mice. Comparison of strains for open field exploratory activity and anxiety-like behavior suggests that poor Barnes maze performance reflects low exploratory behavior, rather than a true spatial memory deficit, in 129S6 mice. This interpretation is supported by good Morris water maze performance in 129S6 mice. These data support the use of a C57BL/6J background for studying memory deficits in mutant mice using any of these tasks, and the use of a 129S6 background in all but the Barnes maze. A DBA/2J background may be particularly useful for investigating the genetic basis of emotional memory using fear conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-69
Number of pages15
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Barnes maze
  • Genetic background
  • Inbred strains
  • Learning and memory
  • Social transmission of food preference
  • Trace fear conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Genetics


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