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Neurodevelopmental Behavioral Core (BHC)

Director: Fagiolini, Michela, Ph.D.

Location: Karp Building, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115

Core Summary:

The Neurodevelopmental Behavioral Core (NBC) is located in the Karp building and has been designed to provide a time-efficient and cost-effective service for the comprehensive characterization of complex behaviors in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, with emphasis on facilitating genetic analyses of complex traits. The NBC aims to provide the facilities and advice to test novel therapeutic drugs and interventions in mouse models of human disorders and diseases, greatly increasing translational research capacity at Boston Children's Hospital. One of the unique features of the NBC is the availability of specialised environments for studying the interaction between "nature and nurture" e.g. dark rearing, sound and light isolation and standardised environmental enrichment. The NBC provides both the necessary equipment, protocols and training for studying neurodevelopmental disorders, focusing not just on “snapshots” in time but on developmental milestones. The NBC is equipped to perform batteries of behavioral tests to thoroughly phenotype specific social, emotional and cognitive behaviors, as well as motor, auditory and visual function and the general health of the animals. Where possible analyses have been automated to improve inter-rater reliability and remove subjectivity. We use Ethovision XT video tracking systems to monitor activity in specific tests of behavioural performance and have other video cameras and infra-red beam break systems for recording other behavioral activity for offline analysis. The NBC has 2 EEG systems - a tethered system with capacity for up to 6 subjects and a telemetry system for up to 8 subjects. There is also capability to measure ECG and respiration in conscious mice without need for surgery.

Staff of the NBC are very willing to work with PIs and Fellows to develop and validate new behavioral outcome measures related to neural development and disorders of development that will contribute to a greater understanding of behavioral changes during development and how disorders in these lead to altered function.

The behavioral facility will provide a unique opportunity for training scientists and teaching graduate and undergraduate students in the measurement of the behavioral outcomes of developmental disorders. We fully endorse the ARRIVE guidelines which are designed to improve the reporting standards of in vivo experimentation and encourage scientists that use the NBC to read the ARRIVE guidelines and use them as a checklist PRIOR to designing their experiments.

The NBC is under the direction of Dr Michela Fagiolini and managed by Dr Nick Andrews. Ms Tiffany Wang B.Sc. and Ms Sonia Xu B.Sc. are the NBC's dedicated Research Assistants. Dr Andrews and Dr Fagiolini are backed up by an internal advisory committee NBC and an external advisory committee composed of experts outside of Boston Children's Hospital that review performance and services on an annual basis. The NBC is under the expert administrative guidance of Amy Weinberg, MPH, Administrator of the IDDRC.

  • Children’s Hospital Boston Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Personnel/Contact Information:

Director: Fagiolini, Michela, Ph.D.
Phone: (617) 919-2419

Member: Xu, Sonia
Role: Research Assistant

Member: Weinberg, Amy, MPH
Role: Administration

Member: Wang, Tiffany, B.SC
Role: Research Assistant

Member: Andrews, Nick, Ph.D.
Role: Core Manager
Phone: (617) 919-3667

Facilities and Equipment:

Location of Core: Karp Building, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115

Major Equipment:

  • Acoustic Startle testing systems
  • Anesthesia machines & induction chambers
  • Conditioned Place Preference
  • Dissecting microscopes
  • ECG Measuring system (ECGenie)
  • EEG (telemetry and tethered)
  • Elevated Plus Maze, Light Dark box
  • Ethovision XT video tracking systems
  • Fear conditioning systems and freezing with AnyMaze video tracking system
  • Gait analysis (DigiGait)
  • Grip Strength
  • Holeboards for measuring exploration
  • Home cage activity monitoring system
  • Morris Water Maze, T Maze, Y Maze
  • Optomotor Visual Acuity Measuring System
  • Rotarod
  • Stereotaxic frames
  • Whole Body Plethysmography system
  • Surgical services

    The core will provide facilities and expertise in a variety of standard aseptic surgical services such as:

    - Infusions of compounds, antibodies, oligonucleotides, proteins, and viral constructs.
    - Implantation of cannulae and electrodes
    - Subcutaneous Drug Delivery Systems: Osmotic minipumps, drug pellets, drug capsules.

  • Training and Education

    The NBC trains users in the different behavioral protocols and helps with data analysis where required. A major role of the NBC will be to discuss with investigators certain key considerations that need to be included in the design of their studies to increase the chances of getting the best from their experiments. In addition we host an annual workshop for users of Noldus Ethovision software and training in the use of specific instruments by manufacturers e.g. ECGenie and Digigait (Mouse Specifics). The NBC will provide training in blood and body fluid collection and will advise on drug treatments and pharmacokinetic analysis, including access to Mass Spec facilities at HMS and CHB.

    We host an annual symposium which consists of talks by internationally recognized neuroscientists with recent speakers including Professor Jackie Crawley (UC Davis), Joshua Gordon, PhD (Columbia University) and members of our advisory committees.

Departmental Web Link(s):

Last updated: 2015-12-10T15:34:47.812-06:00