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Animal Behavior Core

Morris water maze for studying spatial learning and memory in rodents

About us

The mission of the Animal Behavior Core facility is to improve the scope and competitiveness of functional central nervous system research at UMMC, COBRE and INBRE facilities in Mississippi by:

  • Providing these neuroscientists with the tools and technical assistance to identify and monitor animal behavior across a variety of species.
  • Training these neuroscientists in state-of-the art techniques in the analysis of animal behaviors.
  • Assisting these neuroscientists with the interpretation and presentation of data and results relating to animal behaviors.

The Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience Animal Behavior Core conducts state-of-the-art rodent behavioral testing for investigators at UMMC and other nearby institutions on a fee-for-service basis. The core facility is equipped to perform a comprehensive battery of behavioral tests to thoroughly phenotype overall motor and sensory function of rats and mice as well as specific behaviors of interest to specific investigators (learning and memory, operant behavior, motor function and gait, place/fear conditioning, pain/analgesia, depression and anxiety related behaviors). The core is equipped to assist in all aspects of rodent behavioral testing including design and execution of behavioral tasks as well as data analysis and interpretation.

Dr. James Shaffery provides overall supervision of the animal core. His research focuses on the neurobehavioral effects of early-life sleep disruption as well as the mechanisms of these behavioral changes in adults. He is especially interested in the effects of early-live rapid eye-movement sleep disruptions on neuronal and behavioral development.


  • Behavioral and neurological phenotyping including neurological assessment (righting, reflex response, arousal, startle, seizure activity), activity balance/coordination, simple pain/sensory testing aggression.
  • Testing relevant to affective disorders and antidepressant activity (acute – forced swim and tail suspension tests and chronic social defeat, chronic mild/unpredictable stress, learned helplessness)
  • Testing relevant to fear and anxiety and anxiolytic activity (Plus maze, zero maze, marble burying)
  • Learning and memory (active/passive avoidance, spontaneous alternation, water maze, Barnes maze)
  • Assistance with specialized/custom testing as needed (e.g. sexual behavior, maternal behavior, social interaction)
  • Assessing ultrasonic vocalization for pain, anxiety, stress and sexual and social behaviors
  • Sleep and circadian rhythm monitoring and/or disruption.

Behavioral testing facilities are equipped with

  • Barnes Maze for rats 
  • Custom-made Zero Maze, Plus Maze, Eight-Arm Radial Maze, Water maze (rat and mouse) 
  • Focused beam nociception apparatus
  • IR beam-activated activity chambers (12)
  • MiniMitter home cage activity (seven)
  • Mouse operant chambers (six)
  • Noldus Observer (complex analysis of individual and social behaviors from video)
  • Overhead video camera + slave computer + Noldus Ethovision movement tracking (two)
  • Persolt forced swim cylinders
  • Plethysmographs (four chambers)
  • Rat operant chambers (12)
  • Rotorod 
  • Tail suspension set-up 
  • UltraSonic vocalization recording chambers CPN

Contact us

  • UMMC users - Refer to intranet for worksheets, instructions and detailed policies

External collaboration

We welcome collaboration with external users. Contact us by phone or email.