Rigor and Reproducibility in Analysis of Rodent Behavior Utilizing the Forelimb Reaching Task Following a Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

Betsy H Salazar, Kristopher A Hoffman, Allison M Fraizer, Frances Humes, Matthew K Hogan, Maddalena A Horner, Timothy Yadegar, Sarah Trusler, Gillian F Hamilton, Philip J Horner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal cord injury (SCI) research with animals aims to understand the neurophysiological responses resultant of injury and to identify effective interventions that can translate into clinical treatments in the future. Consistent and reliable assessments to properly measure outcomes are essential to achieve this aim and avoid issues with reproducibility. The objective of this study was to establish a baseline for implementing the forelimb reaching task (FRT) assessment and analysis that increased reproducibility of our studies. For this study, we implemented a weekly FRT training program for six weeks. During this time the language of the scoring rubric for movement elements that comprise a reaching task was simplified and expanded. We calculated intra- and inter-rater variability among participants of the study both before and after training to determine the effect changes made had on rigor and reproducibility of this behavioral assessment in a cervical SCI rodent model. All animals (n = 19) utilized for FRT behavioral assessments received moderate contusion injuries using the Ohio State University device and were tested for a period of 5 weeks post-SCI. Videos used for scoring were edited and shared with all participants of this study to test FRT score variability and the effect simplification of the scoring rubric had on overall inter-rater reliability. From our results we determined training for a minimum of three weeks in FRT analysis is necessary for rigor and reproducibility of our behavioral studies, as well as the need for two raters to be assigned per animal to ensure accuracy of results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114188
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Early online dateNov 14 2022
StatePublished - Feb 15 2023


  • Behavioral assessment
  • Interrater reliability
  • Rigor and reproducibility
  • Skilled forelimb reaching task
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Recovery of Function/physiology
  • Rodentia
  • Cervical Cord/injuries
  • Animals
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Spinal Cord
  • Forelimb
  • Disease Models, Animal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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