Behavioral test methods workshop
A one and a half day workshop on behavioral testing was conducted in order to discuss experimental procedures and practices that may help enhance the utility of behavioral data as a reliable index of neurotoxicity and in the safety evaluation of chemical substances. The workshop was open to participation by all sectors of the neuroscience community including academia, government, testing laboratories, and industry. The level of confidence with which changes in behavior can reliably signal adverse effects on the nervous system depends, in part, on the scientific quality of the data generated. With an emphasis on education and problem solving, the workshop focused on the practical aspects and scientific rationale underlying valid and high quality testing. In behavioral testing, there are numerous experimental factors that may impact on the quality of data. These include such elements as experimental design, selection of test methods, the care and precision in the conduct of behavioral testing, procedures to minimize bias and potential confounds, appropriateness of statistical analyses, and data interpretation. In plenary session investigators experienced in behavioral testing discussed the significance of these various experimental factors to data quality, outlined problematic issues, and presented a synopsis of approaches for addressing each of the factors as outlined in a draft of a primer developed by the Interagency Committee on Neurotoxicology (ICON). During the remainder of the workshop, open discussions in small breakout groups were used to address the problematic issues identified by the plenary speakers and explore alternative approaches for dealing with them. Finally, all workshop participants were reconvened in plenary session for summation of breakout group discussions and final recommendations. Information from the workshop was used to form the basis of this manuscript and will be used to help finalize a behavioral test methods primer being drafted by the ICON. The overall conclusions from the workshop were that consensus can be reached on the fundamentals of behavioral assessment, and that aspects of behavioral assessment including experimental design, test method selection, training, validation, control of confounds, data variability, data analysis, and data interpretation need to be carefully considered in the planning and conduct of behavioral safety assessments.