TaskForcer: Operant Conditioning Chamber with Partial Body Restraint

Automated behavioral testing systems enabling real-time measurements of neural activity with unprecedented precision. 

Obtain precise real-time measurements of neural circuits during operant behavior.

The TaskForcer, for mice and rats, is ideal for examining neural circuit mechanisms during rodent behavior. In the TaskForcer, mice or rats learn to pull a lever to receive a water reward under partial restraint.The stainless steel operant chamber prevents movement, with the exception of the eyes, mouth and forepaws. Unlike traditional operant behavior, where the operandum and reward are separate, the TaskForcer utilizes a lever with an integrated water spout for quicker learning. Mice and rats learn the task in just 3 days. (Kimura et al., 2009).

The TaskForcer comes with Operant TaskStudio software that allows researchers to easily program their own tasks.

  • Precisely monitor neural activity simultaneously alongside operant behavior 
  • Mice and rats learn to pull a lever for a water reward in just 3 days, so you can start experiments quickly
  • Compatible with existing in vivo electrophysiology and advanced imaging methods
  • Compatible with sound/visual/odor stimuli and optogenetic stimulation
  • Cables and speakers are electromagnetically shielded for electrophysiology recording

What is unique about the TaskForcer and spout lever?

One of the most challenging questions in Neuroscience is understanding how neural circuits give rise to behaviors in the living, moving animal. Advanced neurophysiological techniques such as in vivo whole cell recordings, optogenetics and two-photon microscopy now provide a means to image awake mice or rats under head-fixation. However, head-fixation can often inhibit learning and decrease performance on behavioral tasks. This makes it challenging to monitor neural circuits in vivo while animals perform operant behavior. 

With traditional operant chambers, the lever (operandum) and reward system are separate. The TaskForcer contains a unique “spout lever” in which the lever and reward spout are integrated into one device to allow for more efficient learning.  This “spout-lever” also allows the experimenter to precisely monitor neural activity during operant behavior because the mouse or rat can still obtain the reward under head-fixation. This technology makes it easy to  precisely monitor and manipulate neural circuits in vivo during a variety of operant behaviors.

Specifications : Maximum stroke = 18 mm; Minimum force = 2 g

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Imaging Adapter Base Mount for the TaskForcer

The Imaging Adapter Base Mount for the mouse TaskForcer unit is custom built to fit your microscope, and is useful for making minor adjustments to animal positioning under the microscope. 

The Imaging Adapter Base Mount can be rotated in X, Y and Z directions to change the angle of the TaskForcer so that you can precisely align the head of the experimental animal underneath the microscope. 

The Base Mount also contains mm markings, allowing you to get the exact same fit each time you place the TaskForcer under the microscope. 

If you are imaging over a wide field of view, the Imaging Adapter Base Mount can be readjusted to align each separate imaging location parallel with your objective.  This ensures a consistent level of accuracy across each imaging location. 

Stereotaxic Frame for Neural Recording

The stereotaxic frame of the TaskForcer unit ensures precise neural recording using electrophysiology. Precise mm markings allow you to easily mark and find the same region for stimulation and recording over time. The frame allows you to adjust not only the position of the animal but the position of the liquid reward and lever pull system.

In addition, the frame comes with a gridded floor that the animal can grip while in the restraint operant chamber. This floor is useful for reducing the stress of the animal while inside the chamber because rodents enjoy having something to hold on to. 

Components

Software: Operant Test Design Examples

Applications

Learning and memory

Motor skill Learning

Addiction/Motivation

Application Note: 

Stable whole cell recordings in motor cortex during motor skills learning. 

Using the TaskForcer, Kimura and colleagues were able to gather in vivo whole cell recordings from the motor cortex in rats, while they learned to pull a lever to receive a liquid reward. (Isomura et al., 2009)

Selected Publications

Kimura, R. et al. Reinforcing operandum: rapid and reliable learning of skilled forelimb movements by head-fixed rodents. Journal of Neurophysiology 108, 1781–1792 (2012).

Kimura, R., Saiki, A., Fujiwara-Tsukamoto, Y., Sakai, Y. & Isomura, Y. Large-scale analysis reveals populational contributions of cortical spike rate and synchrony to behavioural functions: Large-scale analysis of cortical spike synchrony. J Physiol 595, 385–413 (2017).

Nonomura, S. et al. Monitoring and Updating of Action Selection for Goal-Directed Behavior through the Striatal Direct and Indirect Pathways. Neuron 99, 1302-1314.e5 (2018).

Aoki, R. et al. Phase-dependent activity of neurons in the rostral part of the thalamic reticular nucleus with saccharin intake in a cue-guided lever-manipulation task. Brain Research 1658, 42–50 (2017).

Terada, S., Sakurai, Y., Nakahara, H. & Fujisawa, S. Temporal and Rate Coding for Discrete Event Sequences in the Hippocampus. Neuron 94, 1248-1262.e4 (2017).

Masamizu, Y. et al. Two distinct layer-specific dynamics of cortical ensembles during learning of a motor task. Nature Neuroscience 17, 987–994 (2014).

Hori, Y. et al. Ventral striatum links motivational and motor networks during operant-conditioned movement in rats. NeuroImage 184, 943–953 (2019).

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