Mobile HomeCage Large®

The Mobile HomeCage-Large® (MHC-L V3) allows combining live imaging and physiological recordings with more complex behavioral readouts than those possible in a standard size Mobile HomeCage®. MHC-L accommodates floating mazes. Several labs are currently testing it for place cell recording.

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Bigger is not always better. We developed the Mobile HomeCage Large® not to supersize the product that was already proven to work. Rather, the goal was to accomplish something that could not be done in the standard size Mobile HomeCage®. We aimed to enable more complex behavioral experiments (such as maze navigation) and create conditions suitable for place cell recording.

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 moves the cage with its paws and, because there is very little friction, the mouse has an illusion that it walks around the cage. 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 cage

Making the floating cage light enough for the mouse to move it without much effort was no easy task even in the regular-size Mobile HomeCage®. Since the floating cage’s diameter is much larger in the MHC-L, using the carbon fiber was not good enough. We implemented a sandwich structure for the cage’s bottom in order to keep the weight down to the bare minimum.  We offer you a choice of two cage diameters (290 and 325 mm) to ensure compatibility with various 2-photon microscope models.

Compatibility with 2-photon microscopes

The Mobile HomeCage® Large is compatible with Sutter’s MOM, NeuroLabware’s, La Vision Biotech’s & Femtonics’ newer microscope models. It is also compatible with ThorLabs’ Bergamo and Scientifica’s Hyperscope when used with a 290 mm diameter carbon cage. For more information about compatibility requirements, please contact us at mhc-support@neurotar.com.

Foam cage and mazes

Instead of using the carbon cage, you can opt for a floating foam cage or maze (scroll down for the images). We offer a selection of two foam mazes (T-maze and donut-maze) with different wall heights (40 or 70 mm). The donut-maze can be used for place cell recording as it provides an endless circular track with a circumference of ~ 1 meter. The foam cage’s advantage over the carbon fiber cage is its reduced weight. Please remember, that foam mazes and cages are not as durable as carbon cages and they cannot be washed. We ship them disassembled: you will need to put them together and glue them yourself. It’s like playing with Lego. Pure fun!

Clamp

The thin and narrow alligator clamp that is now standard for most of our Mobile HomeCage® products was originally developed to improve maze navigation in the MHC-L. It allows head-fixing the mouse quickly and firmly and it does not obstruct the mouse’s vision. The clamp rotates in both directions (up to 40 degrees in 10 degree steps) to enable access to lateral parts of the brain without twisting the animals head and neck. An alternative clamp design makes it possible to position the animal’s head at a 10-20-30-35 degree angle in the nodding direction. All clamps have threaded holes for attaching miniature cameras or reward systems. The bridge height and the position of towers that hold the bridge can be easily adjusted.

Air flow and noise

We include a noise reduction unit with every Mobile HomeCage® Large device. Although it does not look like high-tech, it helps to further reduce the acoustic noise generated by air streaming through the air dispenser lid. The Mobile HomeCage® can operate from a standard laboratory air source or any air source capable of supplying an air flow of at least 120 L/min.

Locomotion tracking

Most recently (May 2018), we have added new locomotion tracking capabilities to the Mobile HomeCage Large. We have incorporated the tracking device into the air dispenser. For more information about our magnetic tracking solution, which includes open source software, follow this  link to the new product.

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, monitor animals while they socialize or sleep;
  • Access lateral regions of the brain (with the help of a rotating clamp);
  • Begin experiments after only 4 days of habituation 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
  • 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

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
  • narrow  clamp with rotating neck
  • Ø325 X 70 mm ultralight weight carbon fiber cage (can be substituted with any of the three other ultralight weight models, see above)
  • ten head plates of your choice (default: model 1 headplates, 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, 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 such as maze navigation;
  • Head plates (selection of 12 models for various research purposes);
  • Narrow clamp improves maze navigation and provides better access with micromanipulators;
  • Angled 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 clamp is designed to ensure compatibility with wide-diameter objectives;
  • Short neck (45 mm vs. standard 75 mm) is designed to ensure compatibility with short objectives;
  • MultiCage Training Arena enhances 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
  • Coming soon: motion tracking device and open source software, a scale-up version of this.
  • 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.