Morris Water Maze

morris-water-mazeEvaluation of spatial memory

The Morris Water Maze is a test for spatial learning and memory. It is the standard test for hippocampal impairment in mouse models for Alzheimer’s disease, mutagenesis studies of neural plasticity-related genes and other impairments of long-term spatial memory. The test is similar to the Barnes Maze, with the important difference that this test requires swimming. As such, in most strains of mice, this leads to a higher motivation to learn to navigate to the target compared to the Barnes Maze.

The Morris Water Maze consists of a circular pool filled with water, with an escape platform just below the water surface. After multiple training trials, mice learn to locate the submerged platform using the visual cues around the maze. In a probe trial, in which the escape platform is not present, the spatial memory of its location is tested.

In subsequent reversal trials the escape platform is placed 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 platform is marked by a flag, to determine whether mice that do not acquire the task are unable to detect visual cues mounted on the walls.

MWM performance is affected in AD models

We routinely test mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease in the Morris Water Maze. These mice show deficits in learning (multiday acquisition curve), resulting in deficits in memory of the platform location during a probe trial.

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