Mobile HomeCage Large® with tracking capability

The Mobile HomeCage-Large® with tracking capability (MHC-L-T V2) allows integrating live imaging and physiological recordings with behavioral monitoring, collecting actionable data about the mouse’s movement trajectory and speed, and designing closed-loop experiments with automated stimulus delivery.

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Want to know where the mouse goes during the recording session, how long it stays there, how fast it moves, and what is its locomotive response to a sensory stimulus? The locomotion tracking device built into the Mobile HomeCage® Large records data about mouse’ position, trajectory, and speed of movement during neurophysiological experiments combined with complex behavioral paradigms such as maze navigation.

Locomotion tracking facilitates the integration of neurophysiological experiments in awake mice with behavioral research.

Mobile HomeCage® Large basics

The Mobile HomeCage® Large is a flat-floored airlifted platform used for high precision tests in non-anesthetized, head-restrained but otherwise freely moving mice. It is large enough to accommodate floating mazes and to create conditions for place cell recordings (in a donut-maze). To recapitulate core benefits and functionalities of the Mobile HomeCage® Large, as well as the two main cage options click here.

Locomotion tracking

The tracking device monitors and records the mouse’s movement inside the floating cage. The software tracks the trajectory, acceleration, and speed; it displays the data in real-time and saves them for offline analysis. Through TTL ports, the tracking device integrates (in real-time) with external imaging and recording software. In addition, it controls external stimulation devices (such as a lick port or an air puff) during closed-loop experiments.

How the tracking works

The tracking apparatus consists of a sensor board (located inside the air dispenser), a specially designed carbon fiber cage, or, alternatively, a foam cage or maze with magnets built into the bottom, a control unit, and open-source software. Sensors detect the movement of magnets, a processor in the control unit calculates the cage coordinates in real-time and streams the data to the computer software, which extrapolates the cage movements into the animal’s trajectory relative to the cage.

Why magnetic tracking?

The magnetic tracker’s speed (100 fps) and spatial resolution (1 mm) would be hard to match for camera-based tracking devices. Unlike video tracking, magnetic tracking is unaffected by lighting conditions. Besides that: the sensor board is hidden inside the air dispenser and does not require extra space in the experimental set-up.

In preparation for electrophysiological recordings, use the grounding cable provided with every system to connect the air dispenser lid to the common ground of the Faraday cage. This prevents the electromagnetic noise leakage from the sensor board located inside the air dispenser.

Integrating behavior

Locomotion tracking capabilities are key to integrating high precision tests with behavioral research. Mobile HomeCage® user labs monitor locomotion patterns during learning and memory tasks in various types of mazes. They study fleeing and freezing behavior as well as social interactions between mice.

To facilitate the study of complex behavior in the Mobile HomeCage Large®, we have recreated two classical maze designs (T-maze and donut maze) and designed our own sociability maze for studying social interactions. Follow this link to floating foam mazes.

The gif below shows a mouse navigating the classical circular track (donut maze) with a circumference of ~ 1 meter. This maze can be used to map place cells. Liquid reward delivery is facilitated by the lick port attached to the clamp in close proximity to the mouse’s snout:

Mouse in a donut maze with lick port and locomotion tracking

We are particularly proud of the sociability maze designed specifically for studying social interactions in the Mobile HomeCage® Large. Initially, we placed the chamber for the companion mice inside the main cage. But this created a corner making it hard to decide whether the head-fixed mouse was interested in the companion mouse, or whether it simply liked hiding in a corner next to the chamber. Fortunately, we found a way to resolve this dilemma by moving the chamber outside the main cage.

The gif below shows a series of experiments during which a head-fixed female explored the cage with two empty chambers (bottom left), with another female in one of the chambers (bottom center) and a male in one of the chambers (bottom right). Heat maps from the locomotion tracking software  show the preference rates (time spent next to the chamber) of 1%, 20%, and 38% respectively:

sicial interactions in the mobile homecage large

Behavioral paradigms validated for the Mobile HomeCage® Large:

  • Open field test for assessing baseline levels of motor and exploratory activity and for assessing anxiety;
  • Novel object recognition for assessing memory processing;
  • Spatial memory and learning assessment in T-maze and donut-maze;
  • Social memory and social interactions’ assessment in the sociability maze;
  • The resident-intruder paradigm (modified) upon photostimulation in the hypothalamic aggression locus;
  • Mating behavior (limited to courting behavior, no copulation);
  • Escape response to a looming visual stimulus.

What would you do in the Mobile HomeCage, if you let your imagination run wild?

Benefits

Let’s bring it all together. The key benefits of the Mobile HomeCage® Large remain unchanged:

  • Ability to perform high precision imaging, electrophysiological recordings, optogenetic stimulation and functional ultrasound tests (that require head restraint for supreme stability) in the brain of awake behaving mice;
  • Ability to combine these neurophysiological tests with complex behavioral paradigms such as maze navigation and social interactions;
  • Abandoning anesthetics during experiments and training;
  • The fast ramp-up to experiments and high stability of recordings due to efficient stress reduction;
  • Access to lateral parts of the brain enabled by clamp rotation (requires tilting objective for imaging);
  • Ability to study place cells (in a donut-maze with a circumference of approx. 1 meter).

In addition, the tracking device gives you these advantages:

  • Tracking animal’s locomotion with high spatial and temporal resolution;
  • Independence from lighting conditions during the experiment;
  • Fast data saving and loading;
  • Real-time synchronization with external imaging and recording software;
  • Controlling external hardware such as a reward system (during closed-loop experiments) via TTL ports;
  • Tracking software is provided as an open-source.

Compatibility

The Mobile HomeCage® Large is compatible with the following commercial 2-photon systems without any modifications: Scientifica’s Hyperscope (VivoScope frame), NeurolabwareNikon A1R (gantry frame)Sutter MOMLaVision Biotech’s TriM Scope MatrixFemtonics’ FemtoS-Bridge and Olympus FVMPE-RS (with InnerFocus). With some reduction of the cage diameter, the system also works with Bruker’s Ultima Investigator and 2P Plus models, and with Thorlabs’ Bergamo II and DIY 2-photon. Finally, it is possible to use the system with most commercial microscopes by adding a periscopic extension, such as the Inverterscope available from LSM Tech.

If we have missed a two-photon manufacturer, that would accommodate the Mobile HomeCage® Large, let us know and we shall happily add them to the list.

Disclaimer (no legal gibberish)

Although the Mobile HomeCage® devices greatly facilitate neurophysiological experiments in awake head-fixed mice, the quality of the cranial surgery and training remain crucially important to success. Knowing this, we offer some advice on mouse handling and training for the Mobile HomeCage. We also share surgery tutorials with our customers.

Airflow and noise

The Mobile HomeCage® Large can operate from a standard laboratory air source or any air source capable of supplying an airflow of 150 L/min. If your air source does not satisfy the airflow requirements, contact us for a portable air pump recommendation.

Technical characteristics

  • Dimensions, MHC-L V4 with sensor board: 720 X 570 X 210 mm
  • Dimensions, electronic control unit (ECU): 92 X 100 X 40 mm
  • Magnetic cage cage dimensions: Ø325 X 70 mm, Ø325 X 40 mm, Ø290 X 70 mm or Ø290 X 40 mm
  • Data transfer interface: USB 3.0
  • Direct data transfer to external hardware over RS 232 interface: ASCII or binary (timestamp, x, y, angular coordinate, TTL status
  • Four TTL O/I ports
  • Net weight: 13 kg (28 lb)

Mobile HomeCage® Large (with tracking) kit composition

A standard Mobile HomeCage® Large with tracking capabilities has everything you need to start using the device. It includes:

  • Air dispenser with the built-in sensor board
  • Bridge and towers
  • Head fixation block: rotating clamp and neck (for clamp options, visit this page)
  • Ultralightweight carbon fiber cage (choice of 2 sizes and 3 wall heights, see below under accessories) with built-in magnets
  • Ten head plates of your choice (default: model 1 head plates, 4,2 mm opening)
  • A 12 mm diameter hose (length: 3 meters) for connecting to air source
  • The electronic control unit (ECU)
  • RS 232 cable
  • USB connector cable
  • Open-source software

Accessories

  • Ultralightweight magnetic carbon cages, Ø325 X 70 mm, Ø325 X 40 mm, Ø325 X 20 mm, Ø290 X 70 mm and Ø290 X 40 mm are designed to optimize weight for effortless movement;
  • Floating foam cages and mazes enable more complex behavioral tests such as maze navigation;
  • Head plates (selection of 12 models for various research purposes);
  • Standard, Levelt or fUS clamp (please specify your choice at order);
  • Tilted clamp (10, 20, 30 or 35 degrees tilt in the nodding direction, not adjustable) is designed to provide for a more natural head position (must be used with tilting microscope objective);
  • The elongated clamp has a 20 mm longer “lower lip” than the standard clamp. It is designed to ensure compatibility with wide-diameter objectives. Any standard clamp can be modified by replacing the lower lip;
  • Short neck (45 mm vs. standard 75 mm) is designed to ensure compatibility with short objectives or piezo z-drives;
  • Adapters allow placing micromanipulators on the Mobile HomeCage Large bridge;
  • MultiCage Training Arena enhances the workflow by making it possible to train three mice simultaneously;
  • MultiCage Upgrade Kit allows converting the Mobile HomeCage® Large into a training arena for three mice and vice a versa;
  • The roof facilitates mouse behavior by blocking the external light and dampening the external noise. It can also be used to control temperature and air composition (see picture at the bottom of the page).

If unsure which spare parts and accessories you need or whether the Mobile HomeCage® Large will fit into your experimental set-up, please contact mhc-support@neurotar.com.

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