Visual-stimuli Four-arm Maze test to Assess Cognition and Vision in Mice

Jean Philippe Vit, Dieu Trang Fuchs, Ariel Angel, Aharon Levy, Itschak Lamensdorf, Keith L. Black, Yosef Koronyo, Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visual impairments, notably loss of contrast sensitivity and color vision, were documented in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients yet are critically understudied. This protocol describes a novel visual-stimuli four-arm maze (ViS4M; also called visual x-maze), which is a versatile x-shaped maze equipped with spectrum- and intensity-controlled light-emitting diode (LED) sources and dynamic grayscale objects. The ViS4M is designed to allow the assessment of color and contrast vision along with locomotor and cognitive functions in mice. In the color testing mode, the spectral distributions of the LED lights create four homogenous spaces that differ in chromaticity and luminance, corresponding to the mouse visual system. In the contrast sensitivity test, the four grayscale objects are placed in the middle of each arm, contrasting against the black walls and the white floors of the maze. Upon entering the maze, healthy wild-type (WT) mice tend to spontaneously alternate between arms, even under equiluminant conditions of illumination, suggesting that cognitively and visually intact mice use both color and brightness as cues to navigate the maze. Evaluation of the double-transgenic APPSWE/PS1ΔE9 mouse model of AD (AD+ mice) reveals substantial deficits to alternate in both color and contrast modes at an early age, when hippocampal-based memory and learning is still intact. Profiling of timespan, entries, and transition patterns between the different arms uncovers variable aging and AD-associated impairments in color discrimination and contrast sensitivity. The analysis of arm sequences of alternation reveals different pathways of exploration in young WT, old WT, and AD+ mice, which can be used as color and contrast imprints of functionally intact versus impaired mice. Overall, we describe the utility of a novel visual x-maze test to identify behavioral changes in mice related to cognition, as well as color and contrast vision, with high precision and reproducibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4234
Issue number22
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Apparatus
  • Behavioral changes
  • Cognition
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Retinal pathology
  • Rodent maze
  • Visual impairments


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