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J Neurosci Methods. 2010 Apr 30;188(1):45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.01.035. Epub 2010 Feb 6.

The precision of video and photocell tracking systems and the elimination of tracking errors with infrared backlighting.

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Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA.


Automated tracking offers a number of advantages over both manual and photocell tracking methodologies, including increased reliability, validity, and flexibility of application. Despite the advantages that video offers, our experience has been that video systems cannot track a mouse consistently when its coat color is in low contrast with the background. Furthermore, the local lab lighting can influence how well results are quantified. To test the effect of lighting, we built devices that provide a known path length for any given trial duration, at a velocity close to the average speed of a mouse in the open-field and the circular water maze. We found that the validity of results from two commercial video tracking systems (ANY-maze and EthoVision XT) depends greatly on the level of contrast and the quality of the lighting. A photocell detection system was immune to lighting problems but yielded a path length that deviated from the true length. Excellent precision was achieved consistently, however, with video tracking using infrared backlighting in both the open field and water maze. A high correlation (r=0.98) between the two software systems was observed when infrared backlighting was used with live mice.

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