Category: Behavioral Apparatus


In a recently published article (Erskine et al., 2019), The Schaefer lab at the Francis Crick Institute introduced their new open-source project called AutonoMouse.

AutonoMouse is a fully automated, high-throughput system for self-initiated conditioning and behavior tracking in mice. Many aspects of behavior can be analyzed through having rodents perform in operant conditioning tasks. However, in operant experiments, many variables can potentially alter or confound results (experimenter presence, picking up and handling animals, altered physiological states through water restriction, and the issue that rodents often need to be individually housed to keep track of their individual performances). This was the main motivation for the authors to investigate a way to completely automate operant conditioning. The authors developed AutonoMouse as a fully automated system that can track large numbers (over 25) of socially-housed mice through implanted RFID chips on mice. With the RFID trackers and other analyses, the behavior of mice can be tracked as they train and are subsequently tested on (or self-initiate testing in) an odor discrimination task over months with thousands of trials performed every day. The novelty in this study is the fully automated nature or the entire system (training, experiments, water delivery, weighing the animals are all automated) and the ability to keep mice socially-housed 24/7, all while still training them and tracking their performance in an olfactory operant conditioning task. The modular set-up makes it possible for AutonoMouse to be used to study many other sensory modalities, such as visual stimuli or in decision-making tasks. The authors provide a components list, layouts, construction drawings, and step-by-step instructions for the construction and use of AutonoMouse in their publication and on their project’s github.

For more details, check out this youtube clip interview with Andreas Schaefer, PI on the project.


The github for the project’s control software is located here: and for the project’s design and hardware instructions is here: The schedule generation program is located here:


March 21, 2019

Victor Wumbor-Apin Kumbol and colleagues have developed and shared Actifield, an automated open-source actimeter for rodents, in a recent HardwareX publication.

Measuring locomotor activity can be a useful readout for understanding effects of a number of experimental manipulations related to neuroscience research. Commercially available locomotor activity recording devices can be cost-prohibitive and often lack the ability to be customized to fit a specific lab’s needs. Kumbol et al. offer an open-source alternative that utilizes infrared motion detection and an arduino to record activity in a variety of chamber set ups. A full list of build materials, links to 3D-print and laser-cut files, and assembly instructions are available in their publication.

Read more from HardwareX!

Dual-port Lick Detector

January 16, 2019

In the Journal of Neurophysiology, Brice Williams and colleagues have  shared their design for a novel dual-port lick detector. This device can be used for both real-time measurement and manipulation of licking behavior in head-fixed mice.

Measuring licking behavior in mice provides a valuable metric of sensory-motor processing and can be nicely paired with simultaneous neural recordings. Williams and colleagues have developed their own device for precise measuring of licking behavior as well as for manipulating this behavior in real time. To address limitations of many available lick sensors, the authors designed their device to be smaller (appropriate for mice), contactless (to diminish electric artifacts for neural recording), and precise to a submillisecond timescale. This dual-port detector can be implemented to detect directional licking behavior during sensory tasks and can be used in combination with neural recording. Further, given the submillisecond precision of this device, it can be used in a closed-loop system to perturb licking behaviors via neural inhibition. Overall, this dual-port lick detector is a cost-effective, replicable solution that can be used in a variety of applications.

Learn how to build your own here!

And be sure to check out their Github.

ELOPTA: a novel microcontroller-based operant device

December 19, 2018

In 2007, Adam Hoffman and colleagues shared their design for an Electric Operant Testing Apparatus (ELOPTA) in Behavior Research Methods.

Operant behavior is commonly studied in behavioral neuroscience, therefore there is a need for devices to train and collect data from animals in operant procedures. Commercially available systems often require training to program and use and can be expensive. Hoffman and colleagues developed a system that can automatically control operant procedures and record behavioral outputs. This system is intended to be easy to use because it is easily programmable, portable and durable.

Read more here!

Hoffman, A.M., Song, J. & Tuttle, E.M. Behavior Research Methods (2007) 39: 776.

TRIO Platform

December 12, 2018

Vladislav Voziyanov and colleagues have developed and shared the TRIO Platform, a low-profile in vivo imaging support and restraint system for mice.

In vivo optical imaging methods are common tools for understanding neural function in mice. This technique is often performed in head-fixed,  anesthetized animals, which requires monitoring of anesthesia level and body temperature while stabilizing the head. Fitting each of the components necessary for these experiments on a standard microscope stage can be rather difficult. Voziyanov and colleagues have shared their design for the TRIO (Three-In-One) Platform. This system is compact and  provides sturdy head fixation, a gas anesthesia mask, and warm water bed. While the design is compact enough to work with a variety of microscope stages, the use of 3D printed components makes this design customizable.

Read more about the TRIO Platform in Frontiers in Neuroscience!

The design files and list of commercially available build components are provided here.

PsiBox: Automated Operant Conditioning in the Mouse Home Cage

November 30, 2018

Nikolas Francis and Patrick Kanold of the University of Maryland share their design for Psibox, a platform for automated operant conditioning in the mouse home cage, in Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

The ability to collect behavioral data from large populations of subjects is advantageous for advancing behavioral neuroscience research. However, few cost-effective options are available for collecting large sums of data especially for operant behaviors. Francis and Kanold have developed and shared Psibox,  an automated operant conditioning system. It incorporates three modules for central control , water delivery, and home cage interface, all of which can be customized with different parts. The system was validated for training mice in a positive reinforcement auditory task and can be customized for other tasks as well. The full, low-cost system allows for quick training of groups of mice in an operant task with little day-to-day experimenter involvement.

Learn how to set up your own Psibox system here!

Francis, NA., Kanold, PO., (2017). Automated operant conditioning in the mouse home cage. Front. Neural Circuits.

FreemoVR: virtual reality for freely moving animals

November 14, 2018

John Stowers and colleagues from the Straw Lab at the University of Frieburg have developed and shared FreemoVR, a virtual reality set-up for unrestrained animals.

Virtual reality (VR) systems can help to mimic nature in behavioral paradigms, which help us to understand behavior and brain function. Typical VR systems require that animals are movement restricted, which limits natural responses. The FreemoVR system was developed to address these issues and allows for virtual reality to be integrated with freely moving behavior. This system can be used with a number of different species including mice, zebrafish, and Drosophila. FreemoVR has been validated to investigate several behavior in tests of height-aversion, social interaction, and visuomotor responses in unrestrained animals.


Read more on the Straw Lab site, Nature Methods paper, or access the software on Github.


October 17, 2018

In the journal HardwareX, Jinook Oh and colleagues share their design for OpenFeeder, an automatic feeder for animal experiments.

Automatic delivery of precisely measured food amounts is important when studying reward and feeding behavior. Commercially available devices are often designed with specific species and food types in mind, limiting the ways that they can be used. This open-source automatic feeding design can easily be customized for food types from seeds to pellets to fit the needs of any species. OpenFeeder integrates plexiglass tubes, Arduino Uno, a motor driver, and piezo sensor to reliably deliver accurate amounts of food, and can also be built using 3D printed parts.

Read more from HardwareX.

Or check out the device on Open Science Framework and Github.


KineMouse Wheel

October 10, 2018

On Hackaday, Richard Warren of the Sawtell Lab at Columbia University has shared his design for KineMouse Wheel, a light-weight running wheel for head-fixed locomotion that allows for 3D positioning of mice with a single camera.

Locomotive behavior is a common behavioral readout used in neuroscience research, and running wheels are a great tool for assessing motor function in head-fixed mice. KineMouse Wheel takes this tool a step further. Constructed out of light-weight, transparent polycarbonate with an angled mirror mounted inside, this innovative device allows for a single camera to capture two views of locomotion simultaneously. When combined with DeepLabCut, a deep-learning tracking software, head-fixed mice locomotion can be captured in three dimensions allowing for a more complete assessment of motor behavior. This wheel can also be further customized to fit the needs of a lab by using different materials for the build. More details about the KineMouse Wheel are available at, in addition to a full list of parts and build instructions.

Read more about KineMouse Wheel on Hackaday,

and check out other awesome open-source tools on the OpenBehavior Hackaday list!


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