The virtual maze allows the animal to move in a virtual environment, which is projected in front of its eyes. The animal is head-restrained on the device, it can only walk on the sphere in all directions. Depending on its performance, the mouse can get a liquid reward or an air puff on its whiskers.
The apparatus includes:
- A sphere on air cushion,
- A sphere support,
- Ear bars to fix the animal’s head,
- 1 automated retractable canula to distribute liquid rewards,
- 1 automated generator of air puff,
- 3 screens to occupy the entire visual field of the animal, or one curved screen,
- 1 control camera that films in the dim light.
Depending on your needs, the virtual environment can be a straight alley, a Y maze or an 8-arm radial maze.
We propose solutions to couple the analysis of the behavior with electrophysiological recordings:
- a 64-channel electric commutator, equipped with a sophisticated rotation and rearing compensator,
- a communication system to send TTLs pulses to an external device (such as a electrophysiological Input board). These electric signals are synchronous with the events that we manage on our software. In this way, all the events (anilal behavior as well as activation of actuators) will be signed on your electrophysiological trace.
Our software is able to change the virtual environment where the animal progresses. For example, we can change the length and width of arms, the walls’ texture and the moving speed.
According to actions and performances of the animal, the software can:
- Blow air towards the animal’s whiskers if it does not move,
- Bring the canula closer to the animal’s mouth to reward it.
Our software POLY_Files allows extracting variables such as:
- The distance traveled, the speed,
- The path taken by the animal (when it has a choice to make),
- The number of rewards obtained,
- The number of puffs sent to the animal, etc.
This software displays the results in a Microsoft Excel compatible datasheet.