Category: Reward Delivery

An automated behavioral box to assess forelimb function in rats

November 7, 2019

Chelsea C. Wong and colleagues at the University of California – San Francisco have developed and shared a design for an open-source behavioral chamber for the measurement of forelimb function in rats.

Forelimb function (reaching, grasping, retrieving, etc) is a common readout of behaviors for studying neural correlates of motor learning, neural plasticity and recovery from injury. One version of the task used commonly to study these behaviors, the Whishaw single-pellet reach-to-grasp task, traditionally requires an experimenter to manually present each pellet and to shape the behavior rats by placing a subsequent pellet only when the rat has relocated to the other end of the cage over multiple trials. Wong et al. developed an open source, low-cost, automated high-throughput version of this task. The behavioral apparatus, constructed out of commercially available acrylic sheets, features a custom built pellet dispenser, cameras and IR detectors for measuring position of a rat and position of a pellet, and an Arduino board to integrate information about the animal with dispensing of the pellet. Code for automation of the task was built in MATLAB and includes a GUI for altering experiment parameters. Data collected can be analyzed using MATLAB, excel, or most other statistical programming languages. The authors provide example data from the device to highlight its potential use for combining this reaching task with chronic electrophysiological recording techniques. The full design is available in their publication in Journal of Neuroscience Methods.

Check out the full publication here!

Wong, C. C., Ramanathan, D. S., Gulati, T., Won, S. J., & Ganguly, K. (2015). An automated behavioral box to assess forelimb function in rats. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 246, 30–37. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2015.03.008

Automated Home-Cage Rodent Two-bottle Choice Test: open-source success story

October 31, 2019

Elizabeth Godynyuk and colleagues from the Creed Lab at Washington University, St. Louis recently published their design for a two-bottle choice homecage apparatus in eNeuro. It incorporates the original design (published on in May 2018), modifications from Jude Frie and Jibran Khokar (Frie & Khokhar, 2019), and additional improvements over the course of use. This project is a great example of collaborative open-source tool development.

Studies of liquid ingestive behaviors are used in neuroscience to investigate reward-related behavior, metabolism, and circadian biology. Accurate measurement of these behaviors are needed when studying drug administration, preference between two substances, and measuring caloric intake. To measure consummatory behavior in mice between two liquids, members of the Creed lab designed a low-cost and arduino-based device to automatically measure consumption in a homecage two-bottle choice test. Posted to Hackaday in May 2018, the initial version of the device used photointerrupters to measure time at the sipper, 15 mL conical tubes for volumetric measurements of fluid, and a 3D printed holder for the apparatus. Data from the photobeams are recorded to an SD card using a standard Arduino. In August 2018, the project was updated to Version 2, to make it battery powered and include a screen to display data. They made the editable TinkerCAD design available on

In October 2018, Dr. Jibran Khokhar and colleagues at the University of Guelph posted a project log highlighting the modifications making the device larger and suitable for studying liquid intake in rats. This updated design was published in April 2019 in HardwareX. This device gives the advantage of being able to analyze the drinking microstructure by recording licking behavior and volume consumed in real time. Modifications include larger liquid reservoirs and adding a hydrostatic depth sensor, allowing each bout of drinking to correspond to a specific change in volume.

In current day, Elizabeth Godynyuk and colleagues from the Creed lab have shared their own updated version of the device in eNeuro. It remains low-cost and open-course and results validating the device with preference testing are shared. Furthermore, the authors show that the two-bottle choice test apparatus can be integrated with a fiber photometry system. In the eNeuro article, Godynuyuk et al. cite Frie and Khokhar’s modifications to highlight how the design can be easily adjusted to fit investigator needs.

These two projects show how open source projects can be modified and how different groups can collaborate to improve upon designs. This shows how open source projects allow research groups can modify designs to best address their research questions instead of forming their research questions based on the commercial tools available.

Creed Lab Version 1:

Creed Lab Version 2:

Frie and Khokar 2019 (HardwareX):

Godynyuk et al 2019 (eNeuro):

Frie, J. A., & Khokhar, J. Y. (2019). An open source automated two-bottle choice test apparatus for rats. HardwareX, 5, e00061.

Godynyuk, E., Bluitt, M. N., Tooley, J. R., Kravitz, A. V., & Creed, M. C. (2019). An Open-Source, Automated Home-Cage Sipper Device for Monitoring Liquid Ingestive Behavior in Rodents. Eneuro, 6(5), ENEURO.0292-19.2019.

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.

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.


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.


OpenBehavior Feedback Survey

We are looking for your feedback to understand how we can better serve the community! We’re also interested to know if/how you’ve implemented some of the open-source tools from our site in your own research.

We would greatly appreciate it if you could fill out a short survey (~5 minutes to complete) about your experiences with OpenBehavior.



October 3, 2018

Thomas Akam and researchers from the Champalimaud Foundation and Oxford University have developed pyControl, a system that combines open-source hardware and software for control of behavioral experiments.

The ability to seamlessly control various aspects of a complex task is important for behavioral neuroscience research. pyControl, an open-source framework, combines Python scripts and a Micropython microcontroller for the control of behavioral experiments. This framework can be run through a command line interface (CLI), or in a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to manage a variety of devices such as nose pokes, LED drivers, stepper motor controllers and more. The data collected using this system can then be imported easily into Python for data analysis. In addition to complete documentation on the pyControl website, users are welcome to ask questions and interact with the developers and other users via a pyControl Google group.

Read more on the pyControl website.

Purchase the pyControl breakout board at OpenEphys.

Or check out the pyControl Google group!


An opensource lickometer and microstructure analysis program

August 8, 2018

In HardwareX, an open access journal for designing, building and customizing opensource scientific hardware, Martin A. Raymond and colleagues share their design for a user-constructed, low-cost lickometer.

Researchers interested in ingestive behaviors of rodents commonly use licking behavior as a readout for the amount of fluid a subject consumes, as recorded by a lickometer. Commercially available lickometers are powerful tools to measure this behavior, but can be expensive and often require further customization. The authors offer their own design for an opensource lickometer that utilizes readily available or customizable components such as a PC sound card and 3D printed drinking bottle holder. The data from this device is collected by Audacity, and opensource audio program, which is then converted to a .csv format which can be analyzed using an R script made available by the authors to assess various features of licking microstructure. A full bill of materials, instructions for assembly and links to design files are available in the paper.

Check out the full publication here!

Raymond, M. A., Mast, T. G., & Breza, J. M. (2018). An open-source lickometer and microstructure analysis program. HardwareX, 4. doi:10.1016/j.ohx.2018.e00035

Collaboration between OpenBehavior and

July 23, 2018

OpenBehavior has been covering open-source neuroscience projects for a few years, and we are always thrilled to see projects that are well documented and can be easily reproduced by others.  To further this goal, we have formed a collaboration with, who have provided a home for OpenBehavior on their site.  This can be found at:, where we currently have 36 projects listed ranging from electrophysiology to robotics to behavior.  We are excited about this collaboration because it provides a straightforward way for people to document their projects with instructions, videos, images, data, etc.  Check it out, see what’s there, and if you want your project linked to the OpenBehavior page simply tag it as “OPENBEHAVIOR” or drop us a line at the Hackaday page.

Note: This collaboration between OpenBehavior and is completely non-commercial, meaning that we don’t pay for anything, nor do we receive any payments from them.  It’s simply a way to further our goal of promoting open-source neuroscience tools and their goal of growing their science and engineering community.


Open source modules for tracking animal behavior and closed-loop stimulation based on Open Ephys and Bonsai

June 15, 2018

In a recent preprint on BioRxiv, Alessio Buccino and colleagues from the University of Oslo provide a step-by-step guide for setting up an open source, low cost, and adaptable system for combined behavioral tracking, electrophysiology, and closed-loop stimulation. Their setup integrates Bonsai and Open Ephys with multiple modules they have developed for robust real-time tracking and behavior-based closed-loop stimulation. In the preprint, they describe using the system to record place cell activity in the hippocampus and medial entorhinal cortex, and present a case where they used the system for closed-loop optogenetic stimulation of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex as examples of what the system is capable of. Expanding the Open Ephys system to include animal tracking and behavior-based closed-loop stimulation extends the availability of high-quality, low-cost experimental setup within standardized data formats.

Read more on BioRxiv, or on GitHub!

Buccino A, Lepperød M, Dragly S, Häfliger P, Fyhn M, Hafting T (2018). Open Source Modules for Tracking Animal Behavior and Closed-loop Stimulation Based on Open Ephys and Bonsai. BioRxiv.