About The OpenBehavior Project and the Open Source Movement

What is the OpenBehavior Project and how did it start?

Welcome to OpenBehavior, a repository of cutting edge, open source tools for advancing behavioral neuroscience research. We are dedicated to accelerating research through the promotion of collaboration and open source projects. We aim to foster a community of sharing by providing a resource for researchers around the globe. OpenBehavior features hardware and software tools created for the investigation of behavior and cognition.

In 2016, it became clear that there were many projects reporting on new tools for the study of behavior, and thus we launched the OpenBehavior project. Access to design files and build instructions relied on word of mouth and isolated blogs and posts on social media. We made it our goal to disseminate information about tools as soon as they emerge as preprints on bioRxiv or PsyArXiv, peer-reviewed manuscripts, or independent posts by developers on Hackaday, GitHub, lab websites, or social media. The project is based around a website covering bleeding-edge open source tools and a related Twitter account that keeps followers up-to-date with new projects relevant to behavioral neuroscience in species from flies and fish, to rodent and, more recently, humans. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute to the rapid replication and adoption of new tools into ongoing research and trigger modifications of existing tools for novel research applications.

To date, dozens of projects have been shared through www.openbehavior.com, with even more shared through active Twitter engagement. In May 2019, we celebrated our 100th open source project post, which have covered devices for delivering rewarding foods and fluids, measuring home cage activity, video tracking and analysis, and physiologic methods used in behavioral experiments such as miniaturized microscopes and fiber photometry.

What is Open Source and what are the benefits?

The main idea behind an open source project is that the creator or developer provides open access to the source code and design files, whether that be for software or hardware. Open source projects typically provide a license for others to use and modify the design, although many licenses require that any modifications remain open source. Under such licenses, it is not permissible to take an open source design, modify a few things, and claim it is a new closed design. Releasing a project with an open source license provides transparency for others to view, modify, and improve the project. Open source can be relevant for many levels of scientific research; open-access journals, code and data repositories, and sharing methods, protocols, or files are all examples of how one can contribute to open source science.

The term “open source” is also often synonymous with being cost-effective. Many commercial products used in neuroscience can be replicated in an open source manner at a fraction of the initial cost. However, there are additional advantages to incorporating open source science in a research lab. With a recent increase in microcontrollers, microprocessors, 3D printing and laser-cutting technologies, most people now have access to create devices or products in a way that was previously unavailable to researchers. Additionally, a major benefit to open source science is the ability for customization and flexibility. Instead of being restricted to studying only what a commercial part is capable of doing or measuring, it is now possible to study a level deeper through developing a device or software that will help answer the research question, instead of letting the technology drive the research question (Fig. 1). In behavioral neuroscience, this allows researchers to enter uncharted territory of analyzing previously unmeasured or fine-grained aspects of behavior (Krakauer et al., 2017).

Latest Tweets and Posts from OpenBehavior

Latest Tweets on OpenSource Projects

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The OpenBehavior Team

Mark Laubach, PhD

Professor, American University – Washington, DC.

Co-founded The OpenBehavior Project in 2016.

Just vibin’ in Washington DC with his family, dog and two cats. Loves rock music, good beer, and the New York Mets.


Alexxai Kravitz, PhD

Professor, Washington University – St. Louis, MO.

Co-founded The Open Behavior Project in 2016.

Loving the midwest way of life with his wife, daughter, and abundance of plants. Enjoys using open source tools to hack parenthood, and investigate plant communication.

Linda Amarante, PhD (almost)

Post-doctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD.

A total badass who keeps OpenBehavior alive and well, mostly through a perfectly curated twitter timeline.

Multi-modal NUMTOT traversing the Baltimore-Washington region. When not performing cool experiments, you can find her demolishing on the softball field or coaching America’s future at the Washington National’s Youth Baseball Academy.

Samantha White, BS

Graduate Student, American University – Washington, DC.

Doing whatever but procrastinating hard while doing it (IT’S THURSDAY!?)

Digging rabbit holes in decision making philosophy, satiety in reward-guided behavior, behavioral limitations of rodent species, and most recently, rock and roll. In her spare time she’s probably at a concert or doing something reckless.

Current Undergraduates

Meagan Mitchell – American University
Marty Isaacson – American University

Former Contributors

Kyra Swanson
Hannah Goldbach
Michael Preston
Julia Licholai
Hao Chen

Funding Support

NASA DC Space Grant Consortium to ML, Summer 2017

Always looking for more support. For now, this is a 100% volunteer effort.