Accurate tracking and analysis of animal behavior is a crucial element of modern systems neuroscience. Under naturalistic situations, this can however be very challenging. The EthoLoop framework is designed to follow freely roaming animals in natural, three-dimensional environments such as trees, while providing behavior-triggered stimuli or rewards in a closed-loop manner.
EthoLoop uses multiple high-speed infrared cameras to track the position of animals carrying miniature LEDs or retro-reflective markers in the dark. Each camera interacts with an independent GPU based microprocessor where the 2D position for each animal is calculated. All 2D coordinates are transmitted wirelessly to a central computing unit where the 3D position is reconstructed in real-time.
EthoLoop controls multiple remote controlled boxes that enable direct interactions with naive animals in their naturalistic environment. These battery powered boxes can wirelessly communicate and provide multimodal stimuli and liquid reward based on animal’s behavior analysis on the fly. Arbitrarily chosen behaviors can thus be reinforced within minutes and thus replaces tedious observations and lengthy animal training.
Combining multiple wirelessly controlled reward boxes EthoLoop allows well-controlled and reproducible behavioral experiments where feedback is generated on-the-fly, based on real-time behavioral analysis of high resolution close-up views. Wireless optogenetic manipulations or neurophysiological recordings can easily be integrated with EthoLoop and thus enable the next generation neuroethological experiments.