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J Biol Eng. 2017 Nov 16;11:36. doi: 10.1186/s13036-017-0079-y. eCollection 2017.

A simplified microwave-based motion detector for home cage activity monitoring in mice.

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Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Dep. Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics, RG Neuronal Plasticity, Kraepelinstr. 2-10, Munich, D-80804 Germany.
Neuroscience Master's Program, Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN), Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 504, Heidelberg, D-69120 Germany.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwigs-Maximilians-University, Nußbaumstraße 7, Munich, D-80336 Germany.
Fresenius University, Infanteriestraße 11a, Munich, D-80797 Germany.
Institute of Applied Physiology, Ulm University, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, N26/4406, Ulm, D-89081 Germany.



Locomotor activity of rodents is an important readout to assess well-being and physical health, and is pivotal for behavioral phenotyping. Measuring homecage-activity with standard and cost-effective optical methods in mice has become difficult, as modern housing conditions (e.g. individually ventilated cages, cage enrichment) do not allow constant, unobstructed, visual access. Resolving this issue either makes greater investments necessary, especially if several experiments will be run in parallel, or is at the animals' expense. The purpose of this study is to provide an easy, yet satisfying solution for the behavioral biologist at novice makers level.


We show the design, construction and validation of a simplified, low-cost, radar-based motion detector for home cage activity monitoring in mice. In addition we demonstrate that mice which have been selectively bred for low levels of anxiety-related behavior (LAB) have deficits in circadian photoentrainment compared to CD1 control animals.


In this study we have demonstrated that our proposed low-cost microwave-based motion detector is well-suited for the study of circadian rhythms in mice.


Arduino; DIY; Doppler-shift; Home cage activity monitoring; Open-source; Radar

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