Life Sciences Research Building

Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
What the facility does

Behavioural and molecular neuroscience

Areas of expertise

Dr. Abizaid has extensive experience in the field of neuroendocrine regulation of energy balance, and reproductive behavior. His studies include the use of animal models to examine the effects of peripheral metabolic signals on reward circuits across the lifespan using a combination of techniques that include behavioural paradigms, enzyme-linked and radioimmunoassays, immunohistochemistry, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, molecular biology, and basic biochemistry.  Dr. Holahan studies the modulation and storage of long-term memories using developmental approaches, genetic manipulations and behavioural models in young, adult and aged animals.  To study this, he uses intra-cranial manipulations, behavioural assays and molecular techniques using transgenic mouse models, biochemical assays and protein and mRNA analyses.

Research services

Quantitative polymerase chain reactions, immunohistochemistry,  unbiased stereology,  neuron reconstruction,  western blotting, ElISAs,  intracranial injections,  rodent behavioural testing



Three microscopes with integrated software to carry out unbiased stereology, neuron reconstruction and fluorescent imaging.

To fully assess neuroanatomical changes, our microscopes have multiple capabilities including light, darkfield, and fluorescence, and are capable of doing 3-D reconstruction of cells.  These microscopes enable the visualization and precise localization of proteins in discrete neural regions.  The microbrightfield software and motorized microscope stage have emerged as the most sophisticated tools to perform stereological analyses of cells allowing extremely accurate estimations of total number of cells in discrete brain regions, cell size, region volume, neurite length, and standard quantification of multiple labeled cells.

Metabolic chambers

Metabolic changes often appear without obvious phenotypic expression. One way to determine if animals’ metabolic rate has changed or is different from that of controls, is to measure their levels of food intake, excretion, locomotor activity, and oxygen consumption. These metabolic cages represent the only tool that concurrently does this in animals in a controlled environment that is much like a home cage minimizing stress levels. They are also appropriate for the long-term measurement of metabolic parameters.

Water maze and radial arm maze with integrated tracking system

The water and radial-arm maze tasks are used primarily to measure spatial learning and memory.  Performance on these tasks is sensitive to hippocampal function, a process that is sensitive to development and aging.  The tracking system enables objective tracking and analysis of paths not only on the radial-arm maze and water maze but also other tests of cognition (object recognition). The tracking system allows for automatic recording of activity, movement and interaction and makes the best use of time and resources as well as ensures the highest quality of experimental data.

Locomotor activity system

To provide a complete assessment of the biological functioning of rodents, an open field, locomotor activity set-up is used. This is a behavioural tool that can accurately determine locomotor activity in animals. This setup is used in experiments probing for Pavlovian learning, where animals learn to expect a reward that follows exposure to a particular environment. After a few pairings, the animals begin to increase their locomotor activity when placed into the testing environment in expectation of reward. This tool is an economical way to screen a large number of animals for learned anticipatory behavior, a measure that reflects appetitive states and is mediated by mesolimbic dopaminergic function.  This process is also compromised in aging and may contribute to cognitive decline.


  • Royal Ottawa Hospital
  • Concordia University