Home cage assessment

Testing animals in their home cage has several key advantages; it allows for observations over a consecutive period of time, limits the handling and transportation of the animals (limiting stress levels and avoiding biased results), optimizes the use of animals, and allows for tests to consist of multiple protocols.

 PhenoTyper®offers you the ideal system for any test performed in a home cage. It combines a home cage environment with a top unit that integrates a camera plus light and sound stimuli. Powered by EthoVision® XT, this complete set-up automatically executes measurements and tests within the home cage.

The benefits of home cage testing

Behavior of laboratory rodents is often studied in well-controlled, short experiments, in an environment that is separate from the animal’s home cage. Handling of the animal, the stress of new surroundings, and the great variety in laboratory environments can make results difficult to interpret and can have a negative effect on animal welfare. Executing tests in a home cage provides a solution to these problems. The PhenoTyper home cage is suitable for a wide variety of tests, including tests on learning and memory, or anxiety and depression. It is also ideal to monitor the daily rhythm or eating and drinking behavior of your lab animal over a consecutive period of time.

All in one

PhenoTyper is a complete hardware system. Each PhenoTyper home cage provides a home cage environment for a mouse or rat, with the availability of bedding, a shelter, and food and water supply. The top unit contains infrared (IR) sensitive video equipment and light and sound stimuli. You can also expand your system with other components. Noldus offers a lickometer, a pellet dispenser, running wheel, and several shelters. All can be operated from, or used to provide feedback on the animal’s behavior to EthoVision XT.

Sophisticated protocols

PhenoTyper is powered by EthoVision XT, allowing you to automatically record the animal’s spontaneous behaviors. But it offers much more than that. EthoVision XT’s Trial & Hardware Control provides an easy-to-use programming environment to define protocols that completely automate your experiment. It allows you to control all TTL based hardware directly from EthoVision XT (with the use of the Noldus USB-IO box), such as the light and sound stimuli in the top unit of the PhenoTyper, the Noldus pellet dispenser, or any other TTL-based equipment you want to use. You can also integrate time and behavior dependent conditions, Boolean operators, randomize functions, and even feedback from other equipment (such as the Noldus running wheel), into your protocol to create interactions between the animal and its environment. These interactions can include anxiety induced approach or avoidance behavior, or reward or punishment induced learned behaviors. For example, teach the animal to use the left entry of its shelter by turning on the light of the shelter every time it enters it through the right side. Then, after the animal has learned to use the left entry, test its reversal learning capabilities by turning on the light when it enters through the left side.

Multiple circadian cycles

Operated by EthoVision XT, each PhenoTyper home cage operates automatically for several days in a row without any human intervention. This allows for a wide range of experiments, from baseline activity measurement, to learning experiments over longer periods of time. Measuring locomotor, drinking, and eating behavior allows for a baseline evaluation of activity levels and rhythmicity of these behaviors displayed during consecutive days. Because the animal is assessed inside the PhenoTyper home cage, you can perform multiple or repeated experiments for several days in a row.

areas of interest home cage video tracking
With EthoVision XT you can define the areas of interest for your specific test.
ethovision xt video tracking four cages home cage phenotypers
You can operate several PhenoTyper simultaneously for several days in a row. 

High throughput

You can easily create a set-up that contains multiple cages. Connect up to four PhenoTyper home cages using a quad unit and the USB-IO box. A large amount of such systems allows for multiple animals to be assessed simultaneously to establish standardized and productive experiments.

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Find out more about home cage assessment in these blog posts. Read more about EthoVision XT or PhenoTyper.