Category: All

Open-source touch-screen for rodent behavioral testing

March 9, 2018

O’Leary and colleagues describe an open-source touch-screen for rodent behavioral testing. The manuscript is well documented and includes all of the parts needed to build the system on your own. Very useful methods for testing cognitive function and relating findings across species (rodents, primates, humans). Congrats to the authors on setting a high standard for open-source neuroscience!

O’Leary, J.D., O’Leary, O.F., Cryan, J.F. et al. Behav Res (2018).

LocoWhisk: Quantifying rodent exploration and locomotion behaviours

March 8, 2018

Robyn A. Grant, from Manchester Metropolitan University, has shared the following on Twitter regarding the development of the LocoWhisk arena:

“Come help me develop my new arena. Happy to hear from anyone looking to test it or help me develop it further.”

The LocoWhisk system is a new, portable behavioural set-up that incorporates both gait analysis (using a pedobarograph) and whisker movements (using high-speed video camera and infrared light source). The system has so far been successfully piloted on many rodent models, and would benefit from further validation and commercialisation opportunities.

Learn more here:


March 1, 2018

From the Kravitz lab at the NIH comes a simple device for dispensing pre-measured quantities of food at regular intervals throughout the day.  Affectionately known as “SnackClock”, this device uses a 24-hour clock movement to rotate a dispenser wheel one revolution per day.  The wheel contains 12 compartments, which allows the device to dispense 12 pre-measured “snacks” at regular 2 hour intervals.  The Kravitz lab has used this device to dispense high-fat diet throughout the day, rather than giving mice one big piece once per day.  The device is very simple to build and use, requiring just two 3D printed parts and a ~$10 clock movement.  There is no microcontroller or coding required for this device, and it runs on one AA battery for >1 year.  The 3D files are supplied and can be edited to fit SnackClock in different brands of caging, or to adjust the number of snack compartments.  With additional effort the clock movement could be replaced by a stepper motor to allow for dispensing at irregular or less frequent intervals.


DIY Rodent Running Disk

February 6, 2018 

Brian Isett, who is now at Carnegie Mellon, has kindly shared the following tutorial regarding the creation and implementation of a Rodent Running Disk he designed while at University of California, Berkeley.

“Awake, naturalistic behavior is the gold standard for many neuroscience experiments.  Increasingly, researchers using the mouse model system strive to achieve this standard while also having more control than a freely moving animal. Using head-fixation, a mouse can be positioned very precisely relative to ongoing stimuli, but often at the cost of naturalism. One way to overcome this problem is to use the natural running of the mouse to control stimulus presentation in a closed-loop “virtual navigation” environment. This combination allows for awake, naturalistic behavior, with the added control of head-fixation. A key element of this paradigm is to have a very fast way of decoding mouse locomotion.
In this tutorial, we describe using an acrylic disk mounted to an optical encoder to achieve fast locomotion decoding. Using an Arduino to decode the TTL pulses coming from the optical encoder, real-time, closed-loop stimuli can be easily presented to a head-fixed mouse. This ultimately allowed us to present tactile gratings to a mouse performing a whisker-mediated texture discrimination task as a “virtual foraging task” — tactile stimuli moved past the whiskers synchronously with mouse locomotion. But the design is equally useful for measuring mouse running position and speed in a very precise way.”

The tutorial may be found here.

Isett, B.R., Feasel, S.H., Lane, M.A., and Feldman, D.E. (2018). Slip-Based Coding of Local Shape and Texture in Mouse S1. Neuron 97, 418–433.e5.

MAPLE: a Modular Automated Platform for Large-Scale Experiments

January 8th, 2018 
The de Bivort lab and FlySorter, LLC are happy to share on OpenBehavior their open-source Drosophila handling platform, called MAPLE: Modular Automated Platform for Large-Scale Experiments.

Drosophila Melanogaster has proven a valuable genetic model organism due to the species’ rapid reproduction, low-maintenance, and extensive genetic documentation. However, the tedious chore of handling and manually phenotyping remains a limitation with regards to data collection. MAPLE: a Modular Automated Platform for Large-Scale Experiments provides a solution to this limitation.

MAPLE is a Drosophila-handing robot that boasts a modular design, allowing the platform to both automate diverse phenotyping assays and aid with lab chores (e.g., collecting virgin female flies). MAPLE permits a small-part manipulator, a USB digital camera, and a fly manipulator to work simultaneously over a platform of flies. Failsafe mechanisms allow users to leave MAPLE unattended without risking damage to MAPLE or the modules.

The physical platform integrates phenotyping and animal husbandry to allow end-to-end experimental protocols. MAPLE features a large, physically-open workspace for user convenience. The sides, top, and bottom are made of clear acrylic to allow optical phenotyping at all time points other than when the end-effector carriages are above the modules. Finally, the low cost and scalability allow large-scale experiments ($3500 vs hundreds of thousands for a “fly-flipping” robot).

MAPLE’s utility and versatility were demonstrated through the execution of two tasks: collection of virgin female flies, and a large-scale longitudinal measurement of fly social networks and behavior.

Links to materials:

CAD files

Control Software

Raw data and analysis scripts 

De Bivort Lab Site 


ArControl: Arduino Control Platform

January 3rd, 2018

The following behavioral platform was developed and published by Xinfeng Chen and Haohong Li, from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

ArControl: Arduino Control Platform is a comprehensive behavioral platform developed to deliver stimuli and monitor responses. This easy-to-use, high-performance system uses an Arduino UNO board and a simple drive circuit along with a stand-along GUI application. Experimental data is automatically recorded with the built-in data acquisition function and the entire behavioral schedule is stored within the Arduino chip. Collectively, this makes ArControl a “genuine, real-time system with high temporal resolution”. Chen and Li have tested ArControl using a Go/No-Go task and a probabilistic switching behavior task. The results of their work show that ArControl is a reliable system for behavioral research.

Source codes and PCB drafts may be found here: ArControl Github




December 20, 2017

StimDuino, an inexpensive Arduino-controlled stimulus isolator that allows for highly accurate, reproducible automated setting of stimulation currents. The automatic stimulation patterns are software-controlled and the parameters are set from Matlab-coded simple, intuitive and user-friendly graphical user interface. StimDuino-generated automation of the input-output relationship assessment eliminates need for the current intensity manually adjusting, improves stimulation reproducibility, accuracy and allows on-site and remote control of the stimulation parameters for both in vivo and in vitro applications.

Sheinin, A., Lavi, A., & Michaelevski, I. (2015). StimDuino: An Arduino-based electrophysiological stimulus isolator. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 243, 8-17. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2015.01.016


December 18, 2017

ZebraTrack is a cost-effective imaging setup for distraction-free behavioral acquisition with automated tracking using open-source ImageJ software and workflow for extraction of behavioral endpoints of zebrafish. This ImageJ algorithm is capable of providing control to users at key steps while maintaining automation in tracking without the need for the installation of external plugins.

Nema, S., Hasan, W., Bhargava, A., & Bhargava, Y. (2016). A novel method for automated tracking and quantification of adult zebrafish behaviour during anxiety. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 271, 65-75. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2016.07.004