A low-cost open-source 5-choice operant box system optimized for electrophysiology and optophysiology in mice
Kapanaiah SKT., van der Veen B., Strahnen D., Akam T., Kätzel D.
Operant boxes enable the application of complex behavioural paradigms to support circuit neuroscience and drug discovery research. However, commercial operant box systems are expensive and often not optimised for combining behaviour with neurophysiology. Here we introduce a fully open-source Python-based operant-box system in a 5-choice design (pyOS-5) that enables assessment of multiple cognitive and affective functions. It is optimized for fast turn-over between animals, and for testing of tethered mice for simultaneous physiological recordings or optogenetic manipulation. For reward delivery, we developed peristaltic and syringe pumps based on a stepper motor and 3D-printed parts. Tasks are specified using a Python-based syntax implemented on custom-designed printed circuit boards that are commercially available at low cost. We developed an open-source graphical user interface (GUI) and task definition scripts to conduct assays assessing operant learning, attention, impulsivity, working memory, or cognitive flexibility, alleviating the need for programming skills of the end user. All behavioural events are recorded with millisecond resolution, and TTL-outputs and -inputs allow straightforward integration with physiological recordings and closed-loop manipulations. This combination of features realizes a cost-effective, nose-poke-based operant box system that allows reliable circuit-neuroscience experiments investigating correlates of cognition and emotion in large cohorts of subjects.