Category: Sensors

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).

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




November 28, 2017

Pyper is developed by The Margrie Laboratory.

Pyper provides real-time or pre-recorded motion tracking of a specimen in an open-field. Pyper can send TTL pulses based on detection of the specimen within user-defined regions of interest.  The software can be used through the command line or through a built-in graphical user interface. The live feed can be provided by a USB or Raspberry Pi camera.

Example of Pyper tracking a mouse in an open field

Find more information here.

Manual for Pyper.

3DTracker – 3D video tracking system for animal behavior

November 8th, 2017

Jumpei Matsumoto has submitted the following to OpenBehavior regarding 3D tracker, a 3D video tracking system for animal behavior.

3DTracker-FAB is an open source software for 3D-video based markerless computerized behavioral analysis for laboratory animals (currently mice and rats). The software uses multiple depth cameras to reconstruct full 3D images of animals and fit skeletal models to the 3D image to estimate 3D pose of the animals.

More information on 3D tracker may be found on the system’s website,

Additionally, a dynamic poster on the system was presented on November 12, 2017 at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. Click here for more information.

Autonomous Training of a Forelimb Motor Task

November 3, 2017

Greg Silas, from the University of Ottawa, has kindly contributed the following to OpenBehavior.

“Silasi et al developed a low-cost system for fully autonomous training of group housed mice on a forelimb motor task. We demonstrate the feasibility of tracking both end-point as well as kinematic performance of individual mice, each performing thousands of trials over 2.5 months. The task is run and controlled by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, which allows for cages to be monitored remotely through an active internet connection.”

Click here to submit a piece of open-source software or hardware to OpenBehavior.

Moving Wall Box (MWB)

October 26th, 2017

Andreas Genewsky, from the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, has generously shared the following regarding his Moving Wall Box task and associated apparatus.

“Typicallly, behavioral paradigms which aim to asses active vs. passive fear responses, involve the repeated application of noxius stimuli like electric foot shocks (step-down avoidance, step-through avoidance, shuttle-box). Alternative methods to motivate the animals and ultimately induce a conflict situation which needs to be overcome often involve food and/or water deprivation.

In order to repeatedly assess fear coping strategies in an emotional challenging situation without footshocks, food or water deprivation (comlying to the Reduce & Refine & Replace 3R principles), we devised a novel testing strategy, henceforward called the Moving Wall Box (MWB) task. In short, during the MWB task a mouse is repeatedly forced to jump over a small ice-filled box (10 trials, 1 min inter-trial intervals ITI), by slowly moving walls (2.3 mm/s, over 60 s), whereby the presence of the animal is automatically sensed via balances and analyzed by a microcontroller board which in turn controls the movements of the walls. The behavioral readouts are (1) the latency to reach the other compartment (high levels of behavioral inhibition lead to high latencies) and (2) the number of inter-trial shuttles per trial (low levels of behavioral inhibition lead to high levels of shuttles during the ITI).

The MWB offers the possibility to conduct simultaneous in vivo electrophysiological recordings, which could be later aligned to the behavioral responses (escapes). Therefore the MWB task fosters the study of activity patterns in, e.g., optogenetically identified neurons with respect to escape responses in a highly controlled setting. To our knowledge there is no other available compatible behavioral paradigm.”

OMR Arena

September 7, 2017

Researchers at the National Eye Institute and the University of Oldenberg, Germany, have developed the OMR-arena for measuring visual acuity in mice.

The OMR-arena is an automated measurement and stimulation system that was developed to determine visual thresholds in mice. The system uses an optometer to characterize the visual performance of mice in a free moving environment. This system uses a video-tracking system to monitor the head movement of mice while presenting appropriate 360° stimuli. The head tracker is used to adjust the desired stimulus to the head position, and to automatically calculate visual acuity. This device, in addition to being open-source and affordable, offers an objective way for researchers to measure visual performance of free moving mice.

Kretschmer F, Kretschmer V, Kunze VP, Kretzberg J (2013) OMR-Arena: Automated Measurement and Stimulation System to Determine Mouse Visual Thresholds Based on Optomotor Responses. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78058. 


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.