Upon my return back to Tokyo, I had one final visit with Dr. Isomura at Tokyo Medical and Dental University. He originally developed the TaskForcer for rats with O’Hara over 8 years ago!

Dr. Isomura’s research focuses on understanding information processing in Motor Cortex during motor skill learning. To do this, he performs in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recordings in Motor Cortex as animals learn the lever pull task that was specifically designed for the TaskForcer.

What makes simultaneous neural recording during operant behaviors possible with the TaskForcer is the unique spout-lever. This was specially designed by Dr. Isomura and O’Hara such that the reward (liquid from the spout) and operandum (lever) are combined into one. In this way, the animal can still obtain a reward for pulling the lever even while its body is restrained, allowing for operant learning during simultaneous neurophysiological recording.

Dr. Isomura explains, “Since the animals must learn to perform the lever pull task while under head fixation, we wanted to make sure that the animal could access the reward with minimal head movement, but still be motivated to perform the task.”

Isomura also explains, “We were surprised that rats started pulling the lever the very first day that we put them in the chamber. The lever pull task is very robust. We don’t see animal attrition from failure of animals to learn the task.”

The TaskForcer with a stereotaxic setup in a sound attenuating box.

Me with Dr. Takahashi at Doshisha University

“With the TaskForcer, we can reliably get extremely precise single unit recordings during motor behaviors which allows us to examine causal links between neural activity and behavior in great detail.” – Dr. Isomura

Me with O’Hara team members alongside Dr. Isomura (left).