In the Journal of Neurophysiology, Sachin S. Deshmuhk and colleagues share their design for a Picamera system that allows for tracking of animals in large behavioral arenas.
Studies of spatial navigation and its neural correlates have been limited in the past by the reach of recording cables and tracking ability in small behavioral arenas. With the implementation of long-range, wireless neural recording systems, researchers are not able to expand the size of their behavioral arenas to study spatial navigation, but a way to accurately track animals in these larger arenas is necessary. The Picamera system is a low-cost, open-source scalable multi-camera tracking system that can be used to track behavior in combination with wireless recording systems. The design is comprised of 8 overhead Raspberry Pi cameras (capable of recording at a high frame rate in a large field of view) recording video independently in individual Raspberry Pi microcomputers and processed using the Picamera Python library. When compared with a commercial tracking software for the same purpose, the Picamera system reportedly performed better with improvements in inter-frame interval jitter and temporal accuracy, which improved the ability to establish relationships between recorded neural activity and video. The Picamera system is an affordable, efficient solution for tracking animals in large spaces.