Mobile HomeCage Large®

The Mobile HomeCage-Large® (MHC-L V3) allows combining live imaging and electrophysiological recordings with more complex behavioral readouts than those possible in a standard size Mobile HomeCage®. MHC-L accommodates floating mazes, which aid learning and memory studies and place cell mapping.

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The Mobile HomeCage Large® is not simply a larger version of the original Mobile HomeCage.  Rather, it is an advanced platform for more complex behavioral experiments (such as sociability or maze navigation), as well as for place cell mapping during imaging and recording in awake head-fixed mice.

The basics

Let us recapitulate the Mobile HomeCage’s core functionalities. The device combines a stable head fixation apparatus with an air table. A head-restrained mouse is placed in an extremely light but durable cage made of carbon fiber. When the air starts to flow, the animal is able to move the cage with its paws with minimal effort. Since there is very little friction, the mouse has an illusion of walking around the cage on its own volition. This illusion is key to reducing the stress experienced by mice under standard head-restraint conditions. Keeping the stress under control allows performing 2-photon imaging, electrophysiological recordings and optogenetic stimulation in the brain of awake behaving mice.

Carbon fiber cage

To maintain the illusion of unrestricted volitional movement, the cage must be both light and durable.  This is why we have opted for the carbon fiber with a sandwich floor structure.   We offer a choice of two cage diameters (290 and 325 mm) to ensure compatibility with various 2-photon microscope models. There is also a choice of different wall heights (70 mm, 40 mm, 20 mm). The latter two options allow better access with micromanipulators. The 20 mm wall cage is best suited for patch clamp recordings.

Foam cages and mazes

Instead of using the carbon cage, you can opt for a floating foam cage or maze (scroll to the bottom of the cage for images). We offer a selection of two foam mazes (T-maze and donut-maze) with different wall heights (40 or 70 mm). The T-maze enables spacial learning experiments using two-alternative forced choice protocols. The donut-maze can be used for place cell mapping as it provides an endless circular track with a circumference of ~ 1 meter. The foam cages and mazes are even lighter than the carbon fiber cages. Their floor is grippier: mice like walking on foam more than on any other cage material. Please remember, that foam mazes and cages are not as durable as carbon cages and they cannot be (properly) washed. We ship them disassembled: you will need to put them together yourself. It’s like playing with Lego. Pure fun!

Mouse navigating a donut maze

Compatibility with 2-photon microscopes

The Mobile HomeCage® Large is compatible with Olympus MPE-RS (with InnerFocus), Nikon A1R (gantry frame), Sutter MOM, NeuroLabware’s, La Vision Biotech’s, & Femtonics’ newer microscope models. It is also compatible with ThorLabs’ Bergamo, Bruker Investigator and Scientifica’s Hyperscope (VivoScope and SliceScope frames) with some limitations for the diameter of the carbon cage. For more information about compatibility requirements, please contact us at mhc-support@neurotar.com.

Clamps and head plates

Clamp and head plate design are crucial for ensuring the stability of two-photon imaging and electrophysiological recordings in awake mice. We offer several clamp and multiple head plate models. Follow the links to clamp options and to head plates and learn which model is best suited for your research purposes.

Air flow and noise

We include a noise reduction unit with every Mobile HomeCage® Large device. Although it does not look very sophisticated, it helps to further reduce the acoustic noise generated by air streaming through the system. The Mobile HomeCage® is powered by a standard laboratory air source or any other air source capable of supplying an air flow of at least 150 L/min. Noise reduction unit should not be used with portable air pumps. Remember, most noise in the system is generated by the air source! To reduce noise, increase the distance between the air source and the Mobile HomeCage or build an enclosure for the air source.

Locomotion tracking

Locomotion tracking is an optional feature for the Mobile HomeCage Large. The tracking device is built into the air dispenser. For more information about our magnetic tracking solution, which includes open source software, follow this  link.

In summary, this is what you can do with the Mobile HomeCage® Large:

  • Perform neurophysiological experiments in non-anesthetized mice;
  • Combine high precision recordings with complex behavioral tests such as maze navigation;
  • Firmly immobilize the head of a freely moving awake animal;
  • Greatly reduce the stress experienced by awake animals under standard head-fixation conditions;
  • Apply a variety of sensory stimuli (tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory);
  • Provide food, drink, and monitor animals while they socialize or sleep;
  • Access lateral regions of the brain (enabled by clamp rotation);
  • Begin experiments after only 4 days of handling and training;
  • Ensure higher yield and superior reproducibility of results;
  • Engage in new areas of research with more advanced behavioral paradigms.

Technical specifications

  • Dimensions: 720 X 570 X 210 mm (W X D X H)
  • Floating cage dimensions: Ø325 X 70 mm, Ø325 X 40 mm, Ø290 X 70 mm or Ø290 X 40 mm
  • Weight: 15,2 kg
  • Materials: aluminum, carbon fiber, stainless steel

Mobile HomeCage® Large kit composition

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

  • air dispenser
  • bridge and towers
  • standard  clamp or Levelt clamp (magnetic) with (optional) rotation
  • Ø325 X 70 mm ultralight weight carbon fiber cage (can be substituted with any other ultralight weight model, see below under accessories)
  • ten head plates of your choice (default: model 1 head plates, 4,2 mm opening)
  • 12 mm diameter hose (length: 3 meters) for connecting to air source & noise reduction  unit
  • hex screws

Accessories

  • Ultra-lightweight carbon cages, Ø325 X 70 mm, Ø325 X 40 mm, Ø325 X 20,  Ø290 X 70 mm and Ø290 X 40 mm are designed to roughly match the weight of the test animal for effortless movement;
  • Wall-less carbon discs (diameter 325 or 290 mm) allow for easier visual stimulation and unobstructed access with micromanipulators and other research equipment – the air stream at the edges of the disc discourages mice from leaving the disc;
  • Foam mazes enable more complex behavioral tests;
  • Head plates (selection of 13 models for various research purposes);
  • Standard or Levelt clamp (please specify your preference at order);
  • Tilted clamp (10, 20, 30, 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);
  • Elongated lower lip is designed to ensure compatibility with wide-diameter objective lenses;
  • Short neck (45 mm vs. standard 75 mm) is designed to ensure compatibility with short objective lenses;
  • MultiCage Training Arena optimizes the work flow 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;
  • Locomotion tracking device and open source software: please see under the Mobile HomeCage Large with tracking capability;
  • 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.

Mobile HomeCage® patents: US8485133B1EP2712500B1.