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Deep learning-based behavioral profiling of rodent stroke recovery

Journal Article
Rebecca Z Weber, Geertje Mulders, Julia Kaiser, Christian Tackenberg, Ruslan Rust
Year Published: 
BMC Biol. 2022 Oct 15;20(1):232. doi: 10.1186/s12915-022-01434-9.
PMID: 36243716 | DOI: 10.1186/s12915-022-01434-9
Full-Text on BMC Biology


Background: Stroke research heavily relies on rodent behavior when assessing underlying disease mechanisms and treatment efficacy. Although functional motor recovery is considered the primary targeted outcome, tests in rodents are still poorly reproducible and often unsuitable for unraveling the complex behavior after injury.

Results: Here, we provide a comprehensive 3D gait analysis of mice after focal cerebral ischemia based on the new deep learning-based software (DeepLabCut, DLC) that only requires basic behavioral equipment. We demonstrate a high precision 3D tracking of 10 body parts (including all relevant joints and reference landmarks) in several mouse strains. Building on this rigor motion tracking, a comprehensive post-analysis (with >100 parameters) unveils biologically relevant differences in locomotor profiles after a stroke over a time course of 3 weeks. We further refine the widely used ladder rung test using deep learning and compare its performance to human annotators. The generated DLC-assisted tests were then benchmarked to five widely used conventional behavioral set-ups (neurological scoring, rotarod, ladder rung walk, cylinder test, and single-pellet grasping) regarding sensitivity, accuracy, time use, and costs.

Conclusions: We conclude that deep learning-based motion tracking with comprehensive post-analysis provides accurate and sensitive data to describe the complex recovery of rodents following a stroke. The experimental set-up and analysis can also benefit a range of other neurological injuries that affect locomotion.

Keywords: Automated behavior analysis; Behavioral tests; Brain injury; Deep learning; DeepLabCut; Ischemic stroke; Locomotor profile; Mouse; Photothrombotic stroke.

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