Mobile HomeCage Large®

The Mobile HomeCage-Large® (MHC-L V4) allows integrating live imaging, electrophysiological recordings, and optogenetic stimulation with complex behavioral readouts.

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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 tests or maze navigation. Besides that: it allows mapping place cells during imaging and recording in awake head-fixed mice.

The basics

Let us recapitulate the Mobile HomeCage’s basics: the system combines a stable head fixation apparatus with an air table. A head-restrained mouse is placed in a lightweight cage. When the air starts to flow, the cages hovers, and the animal is able to move the cage with minimal effort. Since there is very little friction, the mouse has an illusion of walking around the cage on its own will. This illusion is key to reducing the stress experienced by mice under standard head-restraint conditions. Naturally, keeping the stress low helps to achieve the high stability required for 2-photon imaging, electrophysiological recordings, and optogenetic stimulation in the brain of awake mice.

Cage options

To maintain the illusion of unrestricted volitional movement, the cage must be both light and durable. We offer two basic choices: a cage made of carbon fiber or a cage with a foam bottom and plastic walls. The table below explains the differences between these options:

 Carbon fiber cageFoam cage
Weight46-76 g 60-90 g
Has a doorYesNo
Bottom materialSmooth, slippery when wetGrippy, not slippery
Reusable for the same mouseYesYes
Reusable between different miceYesNo
Disinfection, odor removal70% ethanol (whole cage)70% ethanol (walls only)
PriceHighLow
Production methodHand-madeWater-cutting, 3D printing
# of cages per Mobile HomeCage Large setOne (1) cageParts for fifteen (15) cages
Standard diameters290, 325 mm325 mm
Standard wall height20, 40, 70 mm 20, 40, 70 mm
Mobile HomeCage Large versionNTR000254-03NTR000318-01

Please specify your cage choice at order since it affects the price of the entire system.

Foam mazes for complex behavior in the Mobile HomeCage Large

The Mobile HomeCage Large is the only head-fixation system for awake mice that allows mice to navigate in the real tangible mazes made of light foam and plastic. We offer a selection of three maze designs: T-maze, donut-maze, and sociability maze.  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. Finally, the sociability maze allows observing social interactions between a head-fixed and a companion mouse.

Head-fixed mouse in a T-maze

Compatibility with 2-photon microscopes

The Mobile HomeCage® Large is compatible with the following commercial 2-photon systems without any modifications: Scientifica’s Hyperscope (VivoScope frame), Neurolabware, Nikon A1R (gantry frame), Sutter MOM, LaVision Biotech’s TriM Scope Matrix, Femtonics’ FemtoS-Bridge and Olympus FVMPE-RS (with InnerFocus). With some cage modifications, 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.

Electrophysiological recordings in the Mobile HomeCage Large

For electrophysiological recordings, place micromanipulators on pillars next to the Mobile HomeCage Large. Alternatively, micromanipulators can be mounted directly onto the bridge (see photos at the bottom of the page). Although the choice of head plates, clamp and cage depends on each lab’s experimental goals, the All-Weather strategy for e-phys is to use model 9 (beveled) head plates with a standard clamp and a 40 mm wall cage for better access with micromanipulators.

Clamps and head plates

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

Airflow and acoustic noise

The Mobile HomeCage®  requires an airflow of 150 L/min at 2,9 psi (200 bar).

The system is very quiet: the noise audible to mice in the Mobile HomeCage Large® varies between 10 dB at the high end of the mouse hearing range (70 kHz) and 50 dB at the low end of the hearing range (1 kHz). Remember, most acoustic noise in the system comes from the air source. To reduce noise, increase the distance between the air source and the Mobile HomeCage Large® or build an enclosure for the air source.

Locomotion tracking for integration with complex behavior

Locomotion tracking is an optional feature for the Mobile HomeCage Large®. However, it is indispensable for integrating imaging or electrophysiological recording with behavioral observation. We have built the tracking device into the air dispenser so that it does not require additional space in the experimental setup. For more information about our magnetic tracking solution, which includes open-source software, follow this link (for devices with serial numbers starting with MHCL-00028).

Fitting a large sensor board inside the air dispenser required making modifications to the original air dispenser design. As a result, earlier Mobile HomeCage® Large models (MHC-L V1 and V2) cannot be easily upgraded with tracking capabilities. Please contact support for a solution.

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

  • Perform neurophysiological experiments in non-anesthetized mice;
  • Observe complex behavior during high precision imaging and recording (e.g., during maze navigation);
  • Firmly immobilize the head of a freely moving awake mouse;
  • Greatly reduce the stress experienced by awake mice 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;
  • 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: 11,5 kg (fully assembled, unpackaged).

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
  • clamp and neck
  • an ultralightweight carbon fiber cage or a set of parts for making 15 foam cages
  • 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
  • hex screws

The air source is not included.

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 airstream at the edges of the disc discourages mice from leaving the disc;
  • Foam mazes enable observing complex behavior;
  • Head plates (wide selection models for various research purposes);
  • Standard, Levelt or fUS clamp (please specify your preference at order. For the standard clamp, please specify a degree of tilt, if any);
  • 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;
  • Adapters allow mounting certain types of micromanipulators on the Mobile HomeCage Large bridge;
  • MultiCage Training Arena optimizes 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;
  • Locomotion tracking device and open-source software;
  • 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.

Navigate to our references and educational webinars, support services, and distribution partners.

Mobile HomeCage® patents: US8485133B1EP2712500B1.