The Problem:

Reproducibility, stemming from the inability to replicate scientific studies across labs, is a major issue plaguing Neuroscience research today and is particularly prevalent in animal studies. This is not hard to believe given that the use of animals themselves provides inherent variability, even when all other factors are controlled for. Differences in animal handling, even by the same experimenter can also negatively impact experimental outcomes. 

In addition, advancements in technology have raised the bar for animal experiments. It is now possible to examine neural activity in real-time as animals perform behavioral training during head-fixation.  However, these techniques require extensive training of animals by the experimenter which greatly limits throughput, making it challenging and time-consuming to conduct high powered studies with sufficient sample sizes. Underpowered studies, even those that are technologically advanced, are futile for producing results. 

The Solution:

Our behavioral system, the Self Head-Restraining Platform – originally developed by O’Hara and Dr. Andrea Benucci at RIKEN Brain Institute, was designed specifically to overcome both the issue of experimenter bias and small sample size by enabling automatic mouse head-fixation. 

How it Works:

The Self Head-Restraining Platform essentially teaches mice to train themselves to perform head-fixed operant behavior. It is completely automated, attaches to the home cage, and can run around the clock without experimenter supervision. This not only removes experimenter bias, it greatly increases data throughput, making it manageable to run studies with sufficient sample sizes.

Dr. Andrea Benucci is currently using 12 setups to effectively train 48 mice to perform head-fixation at a time!

“Previously, training just one mouse took about 15 hours of researchers time. Now with 12 setups, we are down to less than one-and-a-half hours.” – Andrea Benucci.

Learn more about the Self Head-Restraining Platform.

How it Works: Steps to Voluntary Head Fixation
with the Self Head-Restraining Platform 

The sequence of steps leading to head fixation. The head plate (black bar on the mouse’s head) is progressively restrained into rails that get narrower as the mouse moves forward(1,2). The forward motion of the head plate mechanically lifts the latching pins, which are then lowered back down due to gravity (3,4). Continued forward movement by the mouse then lifts and lowers the second set of pins (4). After the session ends, a computer-controlled motor lifts up both pins and releases the mouse ( adapted from Ohara & Co., LTD & Aoki et al., 2017).

To see the Self Head-Restraining platform in action
contact us for video access.