In recent years there have been trends in the usage of the Morris water maze and the Barnes maze, as they have different strengths yet both assess navigation performances (for both learning during the training phase & with memory in the probe trial). While they are both wonderful tests for translational behavioral paradigms in mice and rodents, there are key differences between the two.
- Object location tasks are less time-consuming, but they assess different spatial abilities than navigation. (For Alzheimers models, both are impaired).
- The Morris water maze has a key advantage, in that it is most similar to human tasks (Kalova et al. 2005 behavioral brain research 159(2): 175-86).
- However, the Morris water Maze is undoubtedly more stressful compared to the Barnes Maze. Since mice and rats are more physiologically adapted to dry land tasks, this confers an advantage to the Barnes Maze task to better elucidate certain learning/navigation behaviors (Whishaw, et al. 1996. Physiol. Behav. 60, 1191e1197)
Overall: the trend seems to show that the Barnes Maze is increasing in popularity while the Morris water maze has been decreasing due to cost, complexity, and unnecessary stress on mice and rodents. See the google trends search above. Since about 2010, there has been a slow and steady increase in the usage of the Barnes Maze.