Category: Reward Delivery

Open Source platform for Sensory Tasks

August, 2017

Lucy Palmer and Andrew Micallef, of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, have shared the following Arduino and Python based platform for Go/ No-Go tasks in an article published by Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

The Go/No-Go sensory task requires an animal to report a decision in response to a stimulus. In “Go” trials, the subject must respond to a target stimulus with an action, while in “No-Go” trials, the subject withholds a response. To execute this task, a behavioral platform was created which consists of three main components: 1) a water reward delivery system, 2) a lick sensor, and 3) a sensory stimulation apparatus. The water reward is administered by a gravity flow water system, controlled by a solenoid pinch valve, while licking is monitored by a custom-made piezo-based sensor. An Arduino Uno Rev3 simultaneously controls stimulus and reward delivery. In addition, the Arduino records lick frequency and timing through the piezo sensor. A Python script, employing the pyserial library, aids communication between the Arduino and a host computer.

The GitHub for the project may be found here.

Free-Behavior Monitoring and Reward System for Non-human Primates

August, 2017

In Frontiers Neuroscience, Tyler Libey and Eberhard E. Fetz share their open-source device for recording neural activity from free behaving non-human primates in their home cages and administering reward.

This device is designed to document bodily movement and neural activity and deliver rewards to monkeys behaving freely in their home cages. This device allows researchers to explore behaviors in freely moving non-human primates rather than simply relying on rigid and tightly controlled movements which lends itself to further understanding movement, reward, and the neural signals involved with these behaviors. Studying free-moving animals may offer essential insight to understanding the neural signals associated with reward-guided movement, which may offer guidance in developing more accurate brain machine interfaces. The behavior monitoring system incorporates existing untethered recording equipment, Neurochip, and a custom hub to control a cage-mounted feeder to deliver short-latency rewards. A depth camera is used to provide gross movement data streams from the home cage in addition to the neural activity that is recorded.

Libey T and Fetz EE (2017) Open-Source, Low Cost, Free-Behavior Monitoring, and Reward System for Neuroscience Research in Non-human Primates. Front. Neurosci. 11:265. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00265


May 26th, 2017

Jesús Ballesteros, Ph.D. (Learning and Memory Research Group, Department of Neurophysiology at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany) has generously his project, called Autoreward2, with OpenBehavior. Autoreward2 is an Elegoo Uno-based system designed to detect and reward rodents in a modified T-maze task.

In designing their modified T-maze, Ballesteros found the need for an automatic reward delivery system. Using open-source resources, he aimed to create a system with the following capabilities:

  • Detect an animal at a certain point in a maze;
  • Deliver a certain amount of fluid through the desired licking port;
  • Provide visual cues that indicate which point in the maze has been reached;
  • Allow different modes to be easily selected using an interface;
  • Allow different working protocols (i.e., habituation, training, experimental, cleaning)

To achieve these aims, he created used an Elegoo UNO R3 board to read inexpensive infrared emitters. Breaking any infrared beam causes the board to open one or two solenoid valves connected to a fluid tank. The valve remains open for around 75 milliseconds, allowing a single drop of fluid to form at the tip of the licking port. Additionally,  the bread board contains LEDS to signal to the researcher when the IR beam has been crossed.

Currently, a membrane keypad allows different protocols or modes to be selected. The system is powered through a 9V wall adapter, providing 3.3V to the LEDs and IR circuits and 9V to the solenoids.

Importantly, the entire system can be built for under 80€. In the future, Ballesteros hopes to add a screen and an SD card port, and to switch the keypad out for a wireless interface.

The full description may be found here, the Github page for the project may be found here, and the sketch and arduino code may be found here.

Link to share:

Feeding Experimentation Device (FED) part 2: new design and code

fed-front3           fed-gif-3

The Feeding Experimentation Device (FED) is a free, open-source system for measuring food intake in rodents. FED uses an Arduino processor, a stepper motor, an infrared beam detector, and an SD card to record time-stamps of 20mg pellets eaten by singly housed rodents. FED is powered by a battery, which allows it to be placed in colony caging or within other experimental equipment. The battery lasts ~5 days on a charge, providing uninterrupted feeding records over this duration.  The electronics for building each FED cost around $150USD, and the 3d printed parts cost between $20 and $400, depending on access to 3D printers and desired print quality.

The Kravitz lab has published a large update of their Feeding Experimentation Device (FED) to their Github site (, including updated 3D design files that print more easily and updates to the code to dispense pellets more reliably.  Step-by-step build instructions are available here:

Syringe Pump – Pearce Research Group

In their 2014 paper “Open-Source Syringe Pump Library,” Bas Wijnen, Emily Hunt, Gerald Anzalone, and Joshua Pearce detail an open-source syringe pump apparatus developed in their lab, as well as, validate the performance of the device. The authors write, “This syringe pump was designed using freely available open-source computer aided design (CAD) software and manufactured using an open-source RepRap 3-D printer and readily available parts. The design, bill of materials and assembly instructions are globally available to anyone wishing to use them on the Open-source syringe pump Approdepia page… The cost of the entire system, including the controller and web-based control interface, is on the order of 5% or less than one would expect to pay for a commercial syringe pump having similar performance. The design should suit the needs of a given research activity requiring a syringe pump including carefully controlled dosing of reagents, pharmaceuticals, and delivery of viscous 3-D printer media among other applications.”

Pearce Research group also provides an Open Source Lab page dedicated to low-cost, open-source lab hardware.

Wijnen, Bas; Hunt, Emily; Anzalone, Gerald; Pearce, Joshua (2014). Open-Source Syringe Pump Library. PLoS ONE, 9(9), e107216.