Tracking Rats in Operant Conditioning Chambers Using a Versatile Homemade Video Camera and DeepLabCut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Operant conditioning chambers are used to perform a wide range of behavioral tests in the field of neuroscience. The recorded data is typically based on the triggering of lever and nose-poke sensors present inside the chambers. While this provides a detailed view of when and how animals perform certain responses, it cannot be used to evaluate behaviors that do not trigger any sensors. As such, assessing how animals position themselves and move inside the chamber is rarely possible. To obtain this information, researchers generally have to record and analyze videos. Manufacturers of operant conditioning chambers can typically supply their customers with high-quality camera setups. However, these can be very costly and do not necessarily fit chambers from other manufacturers or other behavioral test setups. The current protocol describes how to build an inexpensive and versatile video camera using hobby electronics components. It further describes how to use the image analysis software package DeepLabCut to track the status of a strong light signal, as well as the position of a rat, in videos gathered from an operant conditioning chamber. The former is a great aid when selecting short segments of interest in videos that cover entire test sessions, and the latter enables analysis of parameters that cannot be obtained from the data logs produced by the operant chambers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number160
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 15

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Medical Laboratory and Measurements Technologies


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