Operant conditioning is a learning test used in animal studies to either reinforce or diminish (extinct) certain behaviors. For example, you can teach a mouse to press a lever to receive a food reward, or a fish to stay away from a certain area to avoid a negative stimulus such as a shock or bright light.
Automate operant conditioning tasks
The whole process of an operant conditioning experiment can easily be automated with EthoVision XT. In the video tracking software, you can set-up a program so that EthoVision XT detects certain behaviors of your animal, and in turn sends out a signal to turn certain stimuli on or off. For example: the animal enters a specific area in its cage, this is detected by EthoVision XT, in turn sending out a signal to the pellet dispenser, so that the animal receives its award.
Operant conditioning in the home cage
In most cases, animals are transported from their home cage to a testing area. Handling of the animal and the novel environment both cause stress, which can influence your test results. Therefore, testing in the home cage has become increasingly popular.
PhenoTyper is extremely suitable to carry out operant conditioning tasks in the home cage. It can be adapted to fit many different experimental setups, and as such be fitted with levers, lights, a pellet dispenser, running wheel, speaker for audio signals, and so on. It also benefits from the easy automation of the test with EthoVision XT, as described above.
Operant conditioning and optogenetics
Following the example above, you can give an animal a food reward, but you can also directly stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain to reward the animal. That is what Dr. Kravitz and Dr. Kreitzer did. Read more about it in this blog post.