Tag: microcontroller

Teensy-based Interface

Michael Romano and colleagues from the Han Lab at Boston University recently published their project using a Teensy microcontroller to control an sCMOS camera in behavioral experiments to obtain high temporal precision:

Teensy microcontrollers are becoming increasingly more popular and widespread in the neuroscience community. One benefit of using a Teensy is its ease of programming for those with little programming experience, as it uses Arduino/C++ language. An additional benefit of using a Teensy microcontroller is that it can take in and send out time-precise signals. Romano et al. developed a flexible Teensy 3.2-based interface for data acquisition and delivery of analog and digital signals during a rodent locomotion tracking experiment and in a trace eye blink conditioning experiment. The group shows how the interface can be paired with optical calcium imaging as well. The setup integrates a sCMOS camera with behavioral experiments, and the interface is rather user-friendly.

The Teensy interface ensures that the data is temporally precise, and the Teensy interface can also deliver digital signals with microsecond precision to capture images from a paired sCMOS camera. Calcium imaging can be performed during the eye blink conditioning experiment. This was done through pulses send to the camera to capture calcium activity in the hippocampus at 20 Hz from the Teensy. Additionally, the group shows that the Teensy interface can also generate analog sound waveforms to drive speakers for the eye blink experiment. The study shows how an inexpensive piece of lab equipment, like a simple Teensy microcontroller, can be utilized to drive multiple aspects of a neuroscience experiment, and provides inspiration for future experiments to utilize microcontrollers to control behavioral experiments.


For more details on the project, check out the project’s GitHub here.


Romano, M., Bucklin, M., Gritton, H., Mehrotra, D., Kessel, R., & Han, X. (2019). A Teensy microcontroller-based interface for optical imaging camera control during behavioral experiments. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 320, 107-115.



Carlos Ribeiro’s lab at Champalimaud recently published their new project called optoPAD in eLife:

Both the analysis of behavior and of neural activity need to be time-precise in order to make any correlation or comparison to each other. The analysis of behavior can be done through many methods (as seen by many featured projects on this site!). The Ribeiro lab has previously published their work on flyPAD (Itskov et al., 2014), which is a system for automated analysis of feeding behavior in Drosophila with high temporal precision. However, in attempts to manipulate specific feeding behaviors, the group wanted to go one step further to manipulate neural activity during feeding, and needed a method to do so that would be precise enough to compare with behavior.

In their new manuscript, Moreira et al. describe the design and implementation of a high-throughput system of closed-loop optogenetic manipulation of neurons in Drosophila during feeding behavior. Named optoPAD, the system allows for specific perturbation of specific groups of neurons. They use optoPAD as a method to induce appetitive and aversive effects on feeding through activating or inhibiting gustatory neurons in a closed-loop manner. OptoPAD is a combination of the previous flyPAD system with an additional method for stimulating LEDs for optogenetic perturbation. They also used their system combined with Bonsai, a current open-source framework for behavioral analysis.

The system first uses flyPAD to measure the interaction of the fly with the food given in an experiment. Then, Bonsai detects when the fly interacts with a food electrode, then sending a signal to a microcontroller which will turn on an LED for optogenetic perturbation of neurons in the fly. The authors additionally highlight the flexibility and expandability of the optoPAD system. They detail how flyPAD, once published and then implemented in an optogenetics framework by their group, had been successfully adapted by another group, which is a great example of the benefit of open-source sharing of projects.


Details on the hardware and software can be found at the Ribeiro lab Github. More details on flyPAD, the original project, can be found on their github as well.

Information on FlyPAD can also be found on the FlyPAD website and in the FlyPAD paper .

Moreira, J. M., Itskov, P. M., Goldschmidt, D., Steck, K., Walker, S. J., & Ribeiro, C. (2019). optoPAD: a closed-loop optogenetics system to study the circuit basis of feeding behaviors. eLife, doi: 10.7554/eLife.43924