After set-up, EthoVision XT is ready to follow the movement, activity, and behavior of your animal. In other words, you can start tracking and detecting activity. In addition, you can also manually add events or automatically score behavior.
Tracking body points
EthoVision XT can track in two different ways: it either tracks the center of gravity of the animal or the nose point, center point, and tail base of the animal. The first method is suitable for any kind of animal, the latter was developed for rats and mice. The added accuracy of multiple body points tracking is useful in studies such as novel object recognition and social interaction.
Tracking the nose point and tail base requires the Multiple Body Points Module.
In addition to video tracking of your animal, EthoVision XT can also detect activity. This means that the software detects changes at pixel level from one frame to the next. This is useful to study specific behaviors such as freezing. You can use both a top and a side view camera position.
“The tracking software is extraordinary! Keep the good work going. You make our lives easy and each new version of EthoVision is testimony to the fact that the company is frankly put, the best at its game in the world. We appreciate this very much!”
Dr. D. Wolmarans | North-West University South Africa
Another great advantage of activity detection is that it even works in situations where detection is difficult due to poor lighting or little difference in contrast between the color of the animal and the background color (such as light animals on a light background or dark animals on a dark background).
Tracking in 3D
In some circumstances, for example when studying fish or insects, you might want to track the animal's location in three instead of two dimensions. This can be accomplished by tracking from two camera angles with EthoVision XT and combining this into a 3D tracking project with Track3D. For more information, please click here.
EthoVision XT starts tracking as soon as you click the button in the acquisition screen of the software. But you might want the actual trial to start after certain conditions are met. This is what Trial Control is for; it gives you the option to set start and stop conditions based on the animal’s behavior or on timing. For example, start tracking four seconds after the animal is detected in the arena, and stop 10 minutes after that. You can use a similar approach to control external equipment (such as light and sound) to fully automate your research. Read more about how to use EthoVision XT as an integration platform here.
Batch acquisition means that you can acquire a series of trials at one push of a button. You can line up your video files and let EthoVision XT do the rest. You don’t have to come back and start each trial separately. You can even let it run overnight!
When you are working with a live video feed, you don’t have to start each trial manually, either. Use EthoVision XT to automatically acquire a series of trials, according to your predefined settings, from a live video feed.
With EthoVision XT, you can track in multiple arenas simultaneously. Either place the cages or mazes side by side under one camera, or record from up to four different video sources without the need for additional software or hardware. This means you do not need to place your cages (arenas) in a grid and the resulting image is of higher resolution, allowing you to track in more detail.
Batch acquisition, series of trials from a live video feed, and tracking from up to 4 video sources are all recent improvements in EthoVision XT that were designed to make your experiment run more smoothly. Read more about these features here.
In addition to gathering tracking and activity data, you can also use EthoVision XT to annotate behavioral events. In fact, the software offers two options: a Manual Event Recorder with which you define behaviors and score them during the acquisition phase, and automatic behavior recognition (currently available for rat and mouse behavior). Of course, behavioral events are just as much part of the data as the rest, so you can integrate them into data selection, analysis, visualization, and export.
With the Manual Event Recorder (MER) you can:
- Score live and offline
- Edit scored events
- Score at reduced speed (frame by frame accuracy)
- Score point events (instances)
- Use scored behaviors for trial and hardware control
You can score behavior offline, which enhance scoring accuracy, particularly because you can slow down playback speed. You can edit manually scored events and change the time-stamps, simply by clicking and dragging the scored behavior across the timeline.
Scored behaviors can either have duration (start-stop behavior) or be point events. The latter is useful for behaviors that occur quickly (such as a bite or kick), or for when you only need to know the frequency of occurrence.
“EthoVision provides objective data and has strengthened my research output.”
Dr. P. Amoateng | University of Ghana
Integrated control of equipment based on animal behavior
Trial and hardware control allows you to program and control external hardware devices (e.g., the opening of door or a light or sound cue) based on the behavior of the subject. For example, when the animal is in a specific zone, or has been inactive for more than 20 seconds, EthoVision XT triggers the hardware device.
This external control (hardware triggering) can be based on detected or manually scored behaviors or other events.
Other data streams
Besides the tracking, activity, and behavioral events data that are gathered with EthoVision XT, you can also integrate external data streams, such as physiology. This feature is part of the new External Data Module. Read more about it here.
Build your own parameters
Our customers often request to be able to define their own parameters within EthoVision XT. This would indeed be very useful, for example in novel object testing.
This test often involves using the “proximity” parameter, defined as proximity of the nose point to the objects. But maybe that parameter is not sufficient for object exploration; other parameters, such as animal movement and head direction, can be just as important.
In EthoVision XT you can define a multi-condition variable. Continuing with the previous example, this means that you effectively create a new, customized parameter by combining “heading to zone”, “subject is moving”, and “nose-point is in object zone”.
In addition to using existing parameters, you can also combine manually or automatically scored behaviors, hardware events, and external data to create your own variable. This allows for an effective way to automatically measure behavior in more detail.
“EthoVision's flexibility is great! We use the zebrafish tracking parameters to track squid, and it makes our work so much easier.”
Dr. R. Crook | San Francisco State University
Request custom parameters
Do you feel like you are missing a parameter? If the variables you are interested in are based on the x,y coordinates of the animal, we can build it for you and make it available in your EthoVision XT software.