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J Neurosci Methods. 2007 Mar 30;161(1):55-61. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

An inexpensive sub-millisecond system for walking measurements of small animals based on optical computer mouse technology.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Stimuli from a broad spectrum of sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, thermal, and chemical, can elicit walking responses in animals, reflecting neural activity in sensorimotor pathways. We have developed an integrated walking measurement system with sub-millisecond temporal accuracy capable of detecting position changes on the order of 100 microm. This tracking system provides the experimenter with a means by which to map out the response spectrum of a tethered animal to any number of sensory inputs on time scales relevant to propagation in the nervous system. The data acquisition system consists of a modified optical computer mouse, a microcontroller with peripheral support circuitry, a binary stimulus sync line, and a serial (RS-232) data transfer interface. The entire system is constructed of relatively inexpensive components mostly converted from commercially available peripheral devices. We have acquired walking data synchronized with auditory stimuli at rates in excess of 2100 samples per second while applying this system to the walking phonotactic response of the parasitic fly Ormia ochracea.

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