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Description and validation of the LocoWhisk system: Quantifying rodent exploratory, sensory and motor behaviours

Gillespie, David and Yap, Moi Hoon and Hewitt, Brett M and Driscoll, Heather and Simanaviciute, Ugne and Hodson-Tole, Emma F and Grant, Robyn A (2019) Description and validation of the LocoWhisk system: Quantifying rodent exploratory, sensory and motor behaviours. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 328. p. 108440. ISSN 0165-0270

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Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated that analysing whisker movements and locomotion allows us to quantify the behavioural consequences of sensory, motor and cognitive deficits in rodents. Independent whisker and feet trackers exist but there is no fully-automated, open-source software and hardware solution, that measures both whisker movements and gait. New method We present the LocoWhisk arena and new accompanying software (ARTv2) that allows the automatic detection and measurement of both whisker and gait information from high-speed video footage. Results We demonstrate the new whisker and foot detector algorithms on high-speed video footage of freely moving small mammals, and show that whisker movement and gait measurements collected in the LocoWhisk arena are similar to previously reported values in the literature. Comparison with existing method(s) We demonstrate that the whisker and foot detector algorithms, are comparable in accuracy, and in some cases significantly better, than readily available software and manual trackers. Conclusion The LocoWhisk system enables the collection of quantitative data from whisker movements and locomotion in freely behaving rodents. The software automatically records both whisker and gait information and provides added statistical tools to analyse the data. We hope the LocoWhisk system and software will serve as a solid foundation from which to support future research in whisker and gait analysis.

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