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eNeuro. 2019 Jul 10;6(4). pii: ENEURO.0160-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0160-19.2019. Print 2019 Jul/Aug.

Rodent Activity Detector (RAD), an Open Source Device for Measuring Activity in Rodent Home Cages.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
Signal Processing and Instrumentation Section, Office of Intramural Research, Center for Information Technology (CIT), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20814.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892
National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD 21224.


Physical activity is a critical behavioral variable in many research studies and is, therefore, important to quantify. However, existing methods for measuring physical activity have limitations which include high expense, specialized caging or equipment, and high computational overhead. To address these limitations, we present an open-source, cost-effective, device for measuring rodent activity. Our device is battery powered and designed to be placed in vivarium home cages to enable high-throughput, long-term operation with minimal investigator intervention. The primary aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of using passive infrared (PIR) sensors and microcontroller-based dataloggers in a rodent home cages to collect physical activity records. To this end, we developed an open-source PIR based data-logging device called the rodent activity detector (RAD). We publish the design files and code so others can readily build the RAD in their own labs. To demonstrate its utility, we used the RAD to collect physical activity data from 40 individually housed mice for up to 10 weeks. This dataset demonstrates the ability of the RAD to (1) operate in a high-throughput installation, (2) detect high-fat diet (HFD)-induced changes in physical activity, and (3) quantify circadian rhythms in individual animals. We further validated the data output of the RAD with simultaneous video tracking of mice in multiple caging configurations, to determine the features of physical activity that it detects. The RAD is easy to build, economical, and fits in vivarium caging. The scalability of such devices will enable high-throughput studies of physical activity in research studies.


continuous activity monitoring; home cage; motion detector; physical activity

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