The Barnes maze is a widely used apparatus for learning and memory.
- Comes with 1 target box
- Additional holes can be created upon request.
- The entire top can be rotated around the central partition. Separately, the dark escape box can be rotated underneath the table. The escape box can be removed from a holder for easy cleaning
- A false floor modification can be requested. This functions as second table that rotates alongside the target box, closing the floors not located at the escape box
- The top is thick acrylic available in white, grey, or blue, designed with enough thickness to prevent visual cues of the target box
- 92cm diameter,
- 20 holes,
- 5cm hole diameter,
- 95cm stand height (adjustable)
- Removable Top.
- Black Nesting Chamber w clear nest holder included
- Matted finish
- 122cm diameter
- 20 holes
- 10cm hole diameter
- 95cm stand height (adjustable)
- Removable Top
- Black Nesting Chamber w clear nest holder included
- Matted finish
Barnes Maze False Floor Add on Mouse $650.00
Barnes Maze False Floor Add on Rat $850.00
The Barnes Maze (BM) is a behavioral task often used in neuroscience for studying spatial learning and memory. The task’s basic ability is to measure the capacity of the subject to learn the location of the target by using distal visual cues. The task utilizes the averseness rodents feel towards open and brightly lit spaces to motivate them to find the target location. This task requires the use of hippocampal-dependent spatial reference memory, and this ability to remember the location of the target hole can be affected by the administration of certain drugs or disease models.
The Barnes Maze was designed by Carol Barnes in 1979 to evaluate spatial learning and memory. Initially intended for rats, the BM has been increasingly adopted for mice as well (Sunyer et al., 2007). The BM task draws similarity to the Morris Water Maze (MWM) and the Radial Arm Maze (RAM) task; however unlike these mazes the BM does not subject the participants to strong aversive stimuli such as forced swimming and food/water deprivation and is considered as a low-stress alternative to these tasks (Harrison et al., 2006). The maze, since its conception, has been used not just for spatial learning and memory but also in testing and validating effects of drugs and pharmacological compounds in models of diseases like Alzheimer’s (Harrison et al., 2006, Attar et al., 2013), and in understanding learning and memory deficits associated with mild traumatic brain injuries.
The BM apparatus is a simple circular platform with circular holes serially placed along the edge of the platform. The target location leads to a small and dark recessed chamber beneath the platform and is not visible to the subject from the platform. Intra- and extra-maze cues are often used to assist the subject in finding the target hole.
The BM was developed by Carol Barnes and described in her paper investigating memory deficits associated with senescence (Barnes 1979).
The effects of 3,4-diaminopyridine in the age-related improvement of short-term spatial memory was investigated using the BM, the results of which suggested that the 3,4-DAP selectively improved memory performance of the old subjects, and, within that age group, only improved performance on the short-term memory task (Barnes et al.,1989).
Markowska et al., 1989 utilized the BM for spatial memory and reversal task in their investigation to determine the correlations among different behavioral and neurobiological measures in aged rats.
Since its initial use, the BM has seen a slow but steady growth in use over the years in investigations related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and in understanding effects of brain lesions.
Vorhees (1997) in his paper investigated the effects of prenatal exposure to neurotoxins. For his investigation, he used different behavioral assays to assess the different types of learning and memory, one of these tests being the BM task to assess spatial learning. These tasks were used to detect the long-term CNS dysfunction after prenatal exposure.
Adult Lhx5-deficient mice were used in the investigation of learning impairments and motor dysfunctions by Paylor et al.,2001. The hippocampus plays a crucial role in memory and learning, and its absence or disorganized neuroanatomy as observed in the Lhx5 mutated mice reflects in poor performance in the BM spatial learning task.
The potential of voluntary running in aiding cognitive brain and cognitive functions after Whole-brain irradiation was assessed by Wong-Goodrich et al.,2010. When the subjects were assessed in BM task after daily running following WBI, it was observed that running significantly prevented spatial memory retention decline observed months after irradiation. It was concluded based on their observations that exercise assisted in the recovery of hippocampal plasticity and could be used as a potential therapeutic intervention.
2.3 Recent Developments
Meyer et al.,2014 tested their hypotheses that neonatal leptin would prevent the development of Growth Restricted (GR) associated behavioral abnormalities. In the BM task, the baseline escape times were faster for GR mice; however, the GR mice exhibited regression in their escape times on days 2 and 3. They concluded that alternation in social interactions, learning and activity of mice due to GR could be mitigated by supplementation with the neurotrophic hormone leptin.
The risks of space radiation to astronauts and Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology was evaluated by Rudobeck et al.,2017. APP/PSEN1 transgenic mice and wild-type mice were irradiated with protons, and their performance was tested on the BM at 3 and 6 months after irradiation to evaluate spatial learning and memory.
The BM apparatus is composed of a circular platform that is raised above the floor to a height of approximately 100 cm. Holes of sizes ranging from 50 to 100 cm in diameter to accommodate mice, rats, and small primates are arranged serially and equally spaced along the perimeter of the platform.
The holes are placed several centimeters from the edge of the maze, and the number of holes can vary from anywhere between 18 to 20 or more. The designated target hole has a recessed small, dark chamber under the platform. This hole serves as the safe space for the subject and is not visible from the platform to the subject. The entire platform is rotatable around the center point allowing the location of the escape chamber to be easily varied.
The platform of the maze is colored in contrast to the color of the animals being tested. For ease of observation, the holes of the maze are numbered starting from the target hole; the holes to the right of the target hole are numbered starting with +1, and those to the left are numbered starting with -1, with an opposite hole directly across from the target hole.
The visual cues used for the task can be either intra- or extra-maze cues and can be prepared using different colors and shapes. The cues serve as a reference point for the subject during the task.
To avoid shadows in the maze, the BM should be well lit from above. Proper lighting also ensures that the subject can see the rewards or other cues. Tracking software and video camera, such as Noldus Ethovision XT, mounted above the maze assist with live scoring and tracking and recording the subject and its movements within the maze. To limit influence from any residual stimuli from previous trials, the apparatus must be cleaned thoroughly before and after each trial.
4. Literature Review/ Scientific Research
|Title||Authors, Year published, Journal||Subject||Disease/|
|Beneficial Effects of Exercise Pretreatment in a Sporadic Alzheimer’s Rat Model.||Wu C, Yang L, Tucker D, Dong Y, Zhu L, Duan R, Liu TC, Zhang Q.|
Medicine and science in sports and exercise
|Male Sprague-Dawley rats||Alzheimer’s disease||Subjects were divided into four groups: control, swim + vehicle, streptozotocin (STZ) without the swim, and swim + STZ.|
BM performance suggested that exercise pretreatment could significantly inhibit STZ-induced cognitive dysfunction.
|Low-dose proton radiation effects in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease – Implications for space travel.||Rudobeck E, Bellone JA, Szücs A, Bonnick K, Mehrotra-Carter S, Badaut J, Nelson GA, Hartman RE, Vlkolinský R.|
|APP/PSEN1 transgenic mice||Radiation and Alzheimer’s disease||No significant statistical measures were observed.|
|Sepsis-induced selective loss of NMDA receptors modulates hippocampal neuropathology in surviving septic mice.|
|Zhang S, Wang X, Ai S, Ouyang W, Le Y, Tong J.|
|Male C57BL/6J mice||Sepsis||Sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and perforation (CLP) or by a single intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide.|
Latency to the target hole and errors of the LPS+NS treated mice was significantly longer than that of the control, or LPS+ D-serine treated mice after LPS.
|Restoration of Cognitive Performance in Mice Carrying a Deficient Allele of 8-Oxoguanine DNA Glycosylase by X-ray Irradiation.|
|Hofer T, Duale N, Muusse M, Eide DM, Dahl H, Boix F, Andersen JM, Olsen AK, Myhre O.|
|C57BL/6N mice||Transgenic mice model||X-ray exposure of the Ogg1+/- animals improved their early-phase learning performance in the BM.|
|Overtraining modifies spatial memory susceptibility to corticosterone administration.||Múnera A, Prado-Rivera MA, Cárdenas-Poveda DC, Lamprea MR.|
Neurobiology of learning and memory
|Male Wistar rat||Overtraining||Task performance showed that overtraining modified the susceptibility of spatial memory’s trace to the effects of corticosterone on retrieval and extinction.|
|Intermittent fasting could ameliorate cognitive function against distress by regulation of inflammatory response pathway.||Shojaie M, Ghanbari F, Shojaie N.|
Journal of advanced research
|Male Mice||Intermittent Fasting||Subjects were divided into distress and control that received food and water, and IF with distress that was daily deprived of food and water for two hours.|
Based on the observations it was concluded that IF could improve cognitive function and preserve the brain against distress by regulation of inflammatory response pathway.
4.1 Pharmacological Studies
|Drug / Toxin||Title||Authors, Year published, Journal||Subject||Comments / Outcome|
|Doxorubicin (DOX) and|
|Effects of Cyclophosphamide (CYP) and Doxorubicin (DOX) in a Murine Model of Post-Chemotherapy Cognitive Impairment.||Flanigan TJ, Anderson JE, Elayan I, Allen AR, Ferguson SA.|
|Ovariectomized C57BL/6J mice||Subjects were divided into DOX, CYP, and DOX+CYP treatment groups.|
No significant effect on BM performance was observed.
|Minocycline plus N-acetylcysteine||Minocycline plus N-acetylcysteine reduce behavioral deficits and improve histology with a clinically useful time window.||Sangobowale M, Grin’kina NM, Whitney K, Nikulina E, St Laurent-Arriot K, Ho JS, Bazyan N, Bergold P.|
Journal of neurotrauma
|Male C57/BL6 mice|
Male Long Evans rats
|Only the sham-CHI group lowered the number of errors suggesting that the drug-treated injured mice used suboptimal search strategies to find the escape hole.|
The injured rat groups treated with drugs individually or in combination lowered the number of errors in the BM.
|Methylene blue||Post-Treatment with Methylene Blue is Effective against Delayed Encephalopathy after Acute Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.||Zhao N, Liang P, Zhuo X, Su C, Zong X, Guo B, Dong H, Yan X, Hu S, Zhang Q, Tie X.|
Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology
|Male Sprague Dawley rats||Subjects were divided into 3 groups: a normal group, a CO + saline group, and a CO + MB group.|
Methylene Blue treatment preserved spatial learning and memory in the BM task.
|Isoflurane and Desflurane||Anesthetic Isoflurane or Desflurane Plus Surgery Differently Affects Cognitive Function in Alzheimer’s Disease Transgenic Mice.||Miao H, Dong Y, Zhang Y, Zheng H, Shen Y, Crosby G, Culley DJ, Marcantonio ER, Xie Z.|
|AD Transgenic (Tg) (FAD5X)||Isoflurane plus surgery increased escape latency and escape distance in BM probe test|
|Organosulfur||Organosulfur compound protects against memory decline induced by scopolamine through modulation of oxidative stress and Na+/K+ ATPase activity in mice.||da Silva FD, Pinz MP, de Oliveira RL, Rodrigues KC, Ianiski FR, Bassaco MM, Silveira CC, Jesse CR, Roman SS, Wilhelm EA, Luchese C.|
Metabolic brain disease
|Male Swiss mice||The latency to find the escape box and the number of holes visited was attenuated by BMMS.|
|Docosahexaenoic acid||Docosahexaenoic acid prevents cognitive deficits in human apolipoprotein E epsilon 4-targeted replacement mice.||Chouinard-Watkins R, Vandal M, Léveillé P, Pinçon A, Calon F, Plourde M.|
Neurobiology of aging
|Male and female C57/BL6||DHA consumption prevented memory decline and restored arachidonic acid concentrations in the hippocampus of E epsilon 4 allele (E4) mice as suggested by their BM performance.|
The BM is a simple task used in measuring spatial learning and memory in rodents and small primates, in control vs. disease model/treatment group. The task measures these parameters by observing the ability of the subject to remember the location of the target hole leading to an enclosed escape chamber.
This test can provide information regarding hippocampal-dependent learning, specifically spatial memory. The BM task has been utilized to understand the effects of age and neurodegenerative diseases on the learning and memory capabilities of the subject. Typically, animals are capable of learning and remembering the location of the target hole using intra- and extra-maze cues. This aptitude to remember decreases and the number of errors increases, in animals with impaired neurocognitive abilities.
Before every trial, the apparatus must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid the influence of residual stimuli, if any, from influencing the performance of the subjects.
Pre-Training for the Barnes Maze
The apparatus is set up and the visual cues are placed in their respective locations. The cues remain constant throughout all training and testing trials. The subject is (usually) placed in a cylindrical dark start chamber in the middle of the circular platform and released after 10 seconds have elapsed.
The subject is gently guided towards the escape hole avoiding any force to prevent unnecessary stress on the animal. The subject is allowed to remain in the escape chamber for 2 minutes.
Evaluation of Spatial Memory Using the Barnes Maze
The apparatus is cleaned to remove olfactory cues from previous runs, and the platform is rotated on its central axis for remaining olfactory cues. The escape chamber is adjusted so that it is in the same position.
The video recording is started, and the subject is released from a cylindrical chamber from the center of the platform after 10 seconds. The trial lasts about 3 minutes, during which the subject is allowed to explore the platform freely. Errors are recorded for every time the subject pokes its head into a hole that is not the target hole, and the latency time is the time is determined as the time the subject takes to the target hole. The trial ends when the subject has entered the escape chamber or the 3 minutes have elapsed. In the event, the subject fails to find the escape chamber it is gently guided to it and allowed to remain in it for 1 minute. The subject is returned to its home cage until the next trial.
Each animal should perform four trials on each of four testing days with approximately fifteen minutes between each trial.
Evaluation of Reference Memory Using the Barnes Maze
On the fifth testing day, the target hole is either closed, or the escape chamber is removed. The trial is initiated as mentioned earlier and lasts for 90 seconds. The number of errors and the latency time are recorded. The subject is removed from the maze when the 90 seconds have elapsed.
The procedure is repeated 7 days later, on the twelfth day.
Since its original design, the Barnes Maze has been adapted with several simple modifications. For example, a curtain surrounding the maze platform can be used to prevent the animals from making spatial associations between distal room cues and the location of the target hole (Harrison et al., 2006, Rosenfeld & Ferguson 2014).
The escape chamber beneath the maze can optionally lead to an escape tube that allows the animal to reach a home cage or other safe cage (Rosenfeld & Ferguson 2014). A false floor can also be added beneath the maze platform to close off the holes that do not lead to the escape chamber.
The hole positioning has also seen modifications over the years to improve on the spatial learning and memory measure of the BM task. Protocol variations have also been made to increase task difficulty (Attar et al.,2013).
The data obtained from the Barnes Maze generally consists of two main measures: the number of error head pokes the animal makes, and the time it takes the animal to enter the target hole and escape chamber. Other measures such as the total path length and movement speed can be measured and obtained by tracking software.
As the animal learns the relationship between local or distal spatial cues and the location of the target hole, the number of error head pokes and the latency time should decrease. These measures can be simply graphed and compared across a sham control group and a disease model, as shown in the graphs below:
The search strategy used by the animal must be analyzed manually using the video recording and tracking software. Generally, one of three search strategies is used by the animal to locate the target hole:
- Direct – the animal moves directly to the target hole or an immediately adjacent hole before entering the target hole
- Mixed – the animal searches random holes, crossing through the center of the maze
- Serial – the animal visits several adjacent holes in a clockwise or counter-clockwise manner before reaching the target hole
To help visualize these strategies, the exact position of each head poke error can also be counted and graphed, as shown below:
Using graphs similar to these to compare latency time, the number of error head pokes, the position of these errors, and the total path length between different disease or treatment groups allows for easy visualization of the effect on spatial memory and learning.
Animals in the control groups should show significant improvements in reaching the target hole quickly and efficiently. Animals as disease models of neurodegenerative disorders, for example, should show a much slower learning curve with more errors and longer path lengths, even after several days. Generally, animal cohorts of 10-30 animals are sufficient to obtain p-values of <0.05 using ANOVA and step-down Bonferroni tests (Harrison et al., 2006, Attar et al., 2013, Sunyer et al., 2007).
8. Translational Research
The BM is a simple and straightforward task to assess spatial learning and memory in neurocognitive diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and in traumatic brain injury models.
The benefits of exercise have often been explored as a therapeutic intervention for cognitive improvement. In their study regarding the effects of Whole-brain irradiation (WBI) therapy, Wong-Goodrich et al.,2010 was able to show that running can abrogate the progressive learning and memory deficits induced by WBI and aided in the recovery of adult hippocampal plasticity. Wu et al.,2017 showed that swimming exercise was a promising therapeutic option in the prevention of neurodegeneration in the elderly and/or AD population.
In comparison to the Morris Water Maze and the Radial Arm Maze, the Barnes Maze is considered to be less stressful. The MWM subjects the animal to significantly more stress as it must be submerged in water, swim to survive, and search for the escape platform (Hodges 1996, Harrison et al., 2006). However, some groups report that there is little difference in stress and anxiety between the two mazes (Harrison et al., 2006).
Although the BM is considered a less anxiogenic alternative to other behavioral assays, aversive stimuli such as bright light and adverse noise can be used to encourage explorative drive in finding the escape hole. The absence of significant stressors, such as forced swimming and food/water deprivation, allows for better observations of working and reference memory in the animals as they perform in the maze.
In the absence of aversive stimuli to motivate the subject to seek the enclosed target chamber, the subject may simply explore the maze rather than completing the task
Further, if the maze is being used for multiple animals, proper cleaning of the apparatus is a must to ensure no olfactory cues from previous trials influence the performance of subsequent subjects. This can be easily corrected by cleaning the maze before and after each trial.
As with all mazes that measure aspects of learning and memory, it is important to remember that many different processes play into behavior in the maze. Factors such as anxiety and exploratory activity should be considered when interpreting the results of a spatial memory task.
- The Barnes Maze was designed and developed by Carol Barnes in 1979.
- The BM has similar principles as the MWM and RAM; however, unlike those behavioral assays, the BM does not use strong aversive stimulus.
- The BM is considered as a less stressful alternative to the MWM.
- The BM uses an elevated circular platform that has equally spaced holes placed at the perimeter of the platform.
- The subject’s natural tendency to seek sheltered, dark spaces is challenged by the open and brightly lit platform, forcing it to explore the maze for the target hole.
- Intra- and extra-maze cues are often used to assist the subject in remembering the location of the target hole.
- The difficulty of the maze can be varied by removing the maze cues.
- Animals in control groups show rapid learning as they remember the location of the target hole, while in comparison, animals as disease models of neurodegenerative disorders show a much slower learning curve.
Attar A, Liu T, Chan WT, Hayes J, Nejad M, Lei K, Bitan G. (2013) A shortened Barnes maze protocol reveals memory deficits at 4-months of age in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. PLoS One. 8(11):e80355. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080355.
Barnes CA, Eppich C, Rao G. (1989) Selective improvement of aged rat short-term spatial memory by 3,4-diaminopyridine. Neurobiol Aging. 10(4):337-41.
Barnes, C.A. (1979) Memory deficits associated with senescence: a neurophysiological and behavioral study in the rat. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 93, 74-104.
Chouinard-Watkins R, Vandal M, Léveillé P, Pinçon A, Calon F, Plourde M. (2017) Docosahexaenoic acid prevents cognitive deficits in human apolipoprotein E epsilon 4-targeted replacement mice. Neurobiol Aging. 57:28-35. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.05.003.
da Silva FD, Pinz MP, de Oliveira RL, Rodrigues KC, Ianiski FR, Bassaco MM, Silveira CC, Jesse CR, Roman SS, Wilhelm EA, Luchese C. (2017) Organosulfur compound protects against memory decline induced by scopolamine through modulation of oxidative stress and Na+/K+ ATPase activity in mice. Metab Brain Dis. 32(6):1819-1828. doi: 10.1007/s11011-017-0067-4.
Flanigan TJ, Anderson JE, Elayan I, Allen AR, Ferguson SA. (2017) Effects of Cyclophosphamide (CYP) and/or Doxorubicin (DOX) in a Murine Model of Post-Chemotherapy Cognitive Impairment. Toxicol Sci. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx267.
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Hodges, H. (1996). Maze procedures: the radial-arm and water maze compared. Cog. Brain research 3, 167-181
Hofer T, Duale N, Muusse M, Eide DM, Dahl H, Boix F, Andersen JM, Olsen AK, Myhre O. (2017) Restoration of Cognitive Performance in Mice Carrying a Deficient Allele of 8-Oxoguanine DNA Glycosylase by X-ray Irradiation. Neurotox Res. doi: 10.1007/s12640-017-9833-7.
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Miao H, Dong Y, Zhang Y, Zheng H, Shen Y, Crosby G, Culley DJ, Marcantonio ER, Xie Z. (2017) Anesthetic Isoflurane or Desflurane Plus Surgery Differently Affects Cognitive Function in Alzheimer’s Disease Transgenic Mice. Mol Neurobiol. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0787-9.
Múnera A, Prado-Rivera MA, Cárdenas-Poveda DC, Lamprea MR. (2017) Overtraining modifies spatial memory susceptibility to corticosterone administration. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 145:232-239. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2017.10.003.
Paylor R, Zhao Y, Libbey M, Westphal H, Crawley JN. (2001) Learning impairments and motor dysfunctions in adult Lhx5-deficient mice displaying hippocampal disorganization. Physiol Behav. 73(5):781-92.
Rosenfeld, C.S., Ferguson, S.A. (2014) Barnes maze testing strategies with small and large rodent model. J. Vis. Exp. 84, E51194
Rudobeck E, Bellone JA, Szücs A, Bonnick K, Mehrotra-Carter S, Badaut J, Nelson GA, Hartman RE, Vlkolinský R. (2017) Low-dose proton radiation effects in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease – Implications for space travel. PLoS One. 12(11):e0186168. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186168. eCollection 2017.
Sangobowale M, Grin’kina NM, Whitney K, Nikulina E, St Laurent-Arriot K, Ho JS, Bazyan N, Bergold P. (2017) Minocycline plus N-acetylcysteine reduce behavioral deficits and improve histology with a clinically useful time window. J Neurotrauma. doi: 10.1089/neu.2017.5348.
Shojaie M, Ghanbari F, Shojaie N. (2017) Intermittent fasting could ameliorate cognitive function against distress by regulation of inflammatory response pathway. J Adv Res. 8(6):697-701. doi: 10.1016/j.jare.2017.09.002.
Sunyer, B., Patil, S., Höger, H., Lubec, G. (2007). Barnes maze, a useful task to assess spatial reference memory in mice. Protocol exchange.
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Wong-Goodrich SJ, Pfau ML, Flores CT, Fraser JA, Williams CL, Jones LW. (2010) Voluntary running prevents progressive memory decline and increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis and growth factor expression after whole-brain irradiation. Cancer Res. 70(22):9329-38. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-1854. Epub 2010 Sep 30.
Wu C, Yang L, Tucker D, Dong Y, Zhu L, Duan R, Liu TC, Zhang Q. (2017) Beneficial Effects of Exercise Pretreatment in a Sporadic Alzheimer’s Rat Model. Med Sci Sports Exerc. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001519.
Zhang S, Wang X, Ai S, Ouyang W, Le Y, Tong J. (2017) Sepsis-induced selective loss of NMDA receptors modulates hippocampal neuropathology in surviving septic mice. PLoS One. e0188273. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188273. eCollection 2017.
Zhao N, Liang P, Zhuo X, Su C, Zong X, Guo B, Dong H, Yan X, Hu S, Zhang Q, Tie X. (2017) Post-Treatment with Methylene Blue is Effective against Delayed Encephalopathy after Acute Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12940.