Barnes Maze

Barnes-mazeEvaluation of spatial learning

The Barnes Maze is a test for spatial learning and memory. The test is similar to the Morris Water Maze, with the important difference that this test does not require swimming. As such, the emotional load of the Barnes Maze is suggested to be lower than the emotional load of the Morris Water Maze. The Barnes maze contains 24 holes situated at the edge of the maze. One of these holes is connected to an escape box. The testing room is equipped with several visual cues mounted on the wall. After multiple training trials, mice learn to locate the escape hole using the visual cues around the maze.

In a probe trial, in which the escape hole is not present, the spatial memory of this location is tested. In subsequent reversal trials the escape hole is mounted opposite to its previous location and the acquisition of a new memory is tested. Cued trials can be performed in which the location of the escape hole is marked by a flag, to control whether mice that do not acquire the task are unable to detect visual cues mounted on the walls.

Cytotoxic agents affect Barnes Maze performance

Chemotherapy with so-called cytotoxic agents is associated with changes in cognition in a subgroup of cancer patients. In collaboration with our partners, we previously reported an impaired Barnes Maze performance after treatment with several cytotoxic agents (doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil, and topotecan), indicating the predictive validity of the Barnes Maze to detect detrimental effects of compounds on cognition1.

A more detailed protocol for the Barnes Maze test can be found here.

1Cognitive impact of cytotoxic agents in mice. Seigers, Loos et al., Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015; 232:17