Once you have set up, executing your trials can be as easy as pushing a button to track your subject. At its heart, EthoVision XT is video tracking software, but it is also much more than that. Over the years, EthoVision XT has been evolved in design to be at the core of your lab. A platform to build on.
Automating your research
When you have a lot of trials to run, several things can help you get things done efficiently. Automating your research means more than eliminating the need to annotate animal behavior by hand. It also means high-throughput and high-content testing. You can test multiple animals in multiple arenas simultaneously and get a lot of data out of one single trial by not only measuring movement and activity, but also combining external data and behavioral events with your tracking data. Automation also means that you can use EthoVision XT to control other software (e.g. start playing a video on a screen next to the aquarium) and hardware (think of pellet dispensers, automatic doors, sound generators, lights, optogenetics equipment, and so on). And automation means automatic recognition of behaviors.
There are a couple of useful features in EthoVision XT that will help you efficiently run trial after trial without having to return to your computer. For starters, you can let EthoVision XT automatically acquire a series of trials from a live video feed.
For example, say you are running a water maze experiment. You set EthoVision XT to start tracking the animal as soon as it is detected in the water, and for a total duration of 60 seconds. You also set an inter-trial interval of 10 minutes. This gives you time to guide your animal to the platform if he did not find it, take away the animal, clean up, and place the next animal. Then the next trial will automatically start as soon as the 10 minutes have passed and the animal is detected. You don’t have to get back to your computer and start each acquisition, so you can focus on your animals and your experiment.
Batch acquisition and analysis also truly helps to speed things up. Say you have a bunch of videos to process, and you don’t want to get back to your computer to start each trial, or to start each analysis. Just line up your videos and select the appropriate analysis profiles. Hit the button and walk away from your computer. Your data will be ready for you when you get back.
With EthoVision XT you can track in multiple arenas simultaneously. This means that you can put up to one hundred arenas (such as cages, mazes, petri dishes, etc) under one camera and track in each individual arena at the same time. And because using one camera is not always practical in every situation, you can also connect up to four cameras – useful when your arenas can not be placed next to each other or when your experiment takes place in different rooms. Read more about using multiple arenas here.
Tracking data, as in coordinates and time stamps, can give you a lot of information about the behavior of the animals. Information that is difficult or time-consuming to gather by hand, such as velocity, latencies to enter a specific part of the arena, and distance moved. When you study rodents, you can use multiple body points tracking and gather parameters such as rotational movement, heading, interest in certain objects, and more. Now, how about specific behavioral events, such as rearing and grooming?
In many studies this kind of behavioral events play an important part. EthoVision XT includes a Manual Event Recorder, built into the software, to let you specify and score behaviors or other events during or after your experiments. Read more about this here. For rats and mice, automatic recognition of ten behaviors is available. Read more about it here.
Combining external data
Tracking data, behavioral events… what more is there to measure? Physiology, for example, heartbeat, blood pressure, neuronal activity, and body temperature; and other external data, such as ambient temperature. Nowadays, it is possible to measure so much; now you can integrate everything. Using EthoVision XT you can combine all data for data selection, visualization, and analysis.
You can also use EthoVision XT to control other programs and equipment. For example, some studies use images or video files to display visual stimuli (other species, conspecifics with other shapes or colors, predators, etc.) and measure the response of the subjects. You can let EthoVision XT send out a command to start the playing of that presentation. You can also program EthoVision XT to control equipment, such as pellet dispensers or lights. Think of all the possibilities for operant condition tasks, or optogenetics! Feedback of the hardware events is also sent to EthoVision XT, so you can use it for data selection and analysis. Read about Trial & Hardware Control here.
Extensive analysis options
Besides being a data gathering machine, EthoVision XT is useful in the processing of data into results. There are extensive analysis options, and of course you can always export your data to your favorite statistical program. EthoVision XT also visualizes your data in several ways. Besides the obvious graphs and tables, screen recording of the integrated visualization, tracks, and heatmaps are great visuals of your data to use in publications and presentations!