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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 3;9(4):e93468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093468. eCollection 2014.

Automated analyses of innate olfactory behaviors in rodents.

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Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America; Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, United States of America.


Olfaction based behavioral experiments are important for the investigation of sensory coding, perception, decision making and memory formation. The predominant experimental paradigms employ forced choice operant assays, which require associative learning and reinforced training. Animal performance in these assays not only reflects odor perception but also the confidence in decision making and memory. In this study, we describe a versatile and automated setup, "Poking-Registered Olfactory Behavior Evaluation System" (PROBES), which can be adapted to perform multiple olfactory assays. In addition to forced choice assays, we employ this system to examine animal's innate ability for odor detection, discrimination and preference without elaborate training procedures. These assays provide quantitative measurements of odor discrimination and robust readouts of odor preference. Using PROBES, we find odor detection thresholds are at lower concentrations in naïve animals than those determined by forced choice assays. PROBES-based automated assays provide an efficient way of analyzing innate odor-triggered behaviors.

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