Precision Syringe Pump Controller
Linda Amarante and colleagues from American University have developed and shared an open-source syringe pump controller for dispensing precise volumes of fluid over precise timescales.
Delivering rewards are a crucial part of behavioral neuroscience experiments. In the case of liquid rewards, such as water, juice, chocolate milk or sucrose solutions, syringe pumps are a necessary piece of laboratory equipment. Commercial options are limited in flexibility and can be cost prohibitive, and in some cases produce electrical noise which interferes with electrophysiological experiments. To address this, Amarante et al. developed an open source syringe pump controller using commonly available parts and a Teensy microcontroller with custom open source firmware. The pump for the controller device is 3D printed, based off another open source syringe pump design, but can also be used with other pump hardware. A custom printed circuit board was developed to control the motor and features multiple inputs to deliver up to three different volumes of fluid defined by the user, and can do so in time epochs defined by the user via an LED screen for manipulating the firmware algorithm. The device is powered via a 12-24 volt DC power supply and the circuit board does not produce excess electrical noise. To validate the device, the authors implemented the syringe pump controller in a behavioral experiment to examine rats licking for different volumes of sucrose reward while recording neural activity in the frontal cortex. Results from this experiment, as well as the full build list and instructions and information for sourcing the firmware and PCB design are available in the paper.