Automated Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning (OC) is a classical paradigm and a standard technique used in experimental psychology in which animals learn to perform an action to achieve a reward. By using this paradigm, it is possible to extract learning curves and measure accurately reaction times (RTs). Both these measurements are proxy of cognitive capabilities and can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions in mouse models of disease. Here, we describe a fully 3D printable device that is able to perform OC on freely moving mice, while performing real-time tracking of the animal position. We successfully trained six mice, showing stereotyped learning curves that are highly reproducible across mice and reaching >70% of accuracy after 2 d of conditioning. Different products for OC are commercially available, though most of them do not provide customizable features and are relatively expensive. This data demonstrate that this system is a valuable alternative to available state-of-the-art commercial devices, representing a good balance between performance, cost, and versatility in its use.

Project Author(s)

Raffaele Mazziotti, Giulia Sagona, Leonardo Lupori, Virginia Martini and Tommaso Pizzorusso

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