Improved behavior, motor, and cognition assessments in neonatal piglets

Sarah Sullivan, Stuart H. Friess, Jill Ralston, Colin Smith, Kathleen J. Propert, Paul E. Rapp, Susan S. Margulies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The alterations of animal behavior after traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be subtle, and their quantitative characterization can present significant methodological challenges. Meeting these challenges is a critical need, because quantitative measures are required in studies that compare the efficacy of different clinical interventions. We developed a battery of assessments to quantify behavioral, motor, and cognitive changes in neonatal piglets with good sensitivity and specificity to the detection of persistent deficits that correlate with axonal injury severity after a rapid non-impact head rotation with a diffuse pattern of axonal injury. The battery of measures developed included open field behaviors of sniffing and moving a toy, locomotion measures of Lempel-Ziv complexity and the probability of remaining in the current location, and a novel metric for evaluating motor performance. Our composite porcine disability score was able to detect brain injury with a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 85.7% at day +4 post-injury for n=8 injured and n=7 sham piglets and significantly correlated with the percent axonal injury in these animals (day +4: ρ=0.76, p=0.0011). A significant improvement over our previous assessments, this new porcine disability score has potential use in a wide variety of porcine disease and injury models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1770-1779
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 2013


  • cognition
  • neurobehavioral assessment
  • pediatric brain injury
  • porcine
  • traumatic brain injury


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