Video_4_An Automated Water Task to Test Visual Discrimination Performance, Adaptive Strategies and Stereotyped Choices in Freely Moving Mice.AVI

We describe an automated training/testing system for adult mice that allows reliable quantification of visual discrimination capacities, adaptive swimming strategies, and stereotyped choices with minimal human intervention. The experimental apparatus consists of a hexagonal swimming pool with an internal decision zone leading to three interior arms with two software-controlled platforms inside of each arm. Each experimental trial consists in projecting a “positive” conditioned discriminative stimulus (SD) in one randomly chosen arm, whereas the other two arms project non-reinforced stimuli (the delta stimuli, SΔ). By employing a classical behavioral training schedule, the mice learn to swim toward the arm that displays the SD, because it predicts the presence of two elevated platforms located symmetrically to the left and right side of the projecting monitor. Separate behavioral components for discriminative and stereotyped choice behavior can be identified through this geometric arrangement. In addition, the projection in real-time of either static or dynamic visual stimuli allows the usage of training programs contingent on current behavioral performance. We validated the system by characterizing the visual acuity and contrast sensitivities in a group of trained mice. By employing pharmacological manipulations, we found that the mice required an intact functioning of the primary visual cortex (V1) to solve the hexagonal pool. Overall, the automated training system constitutes a reliable, rapid, and inexpensive method to quantify visual capacities of mice. It can be used to characterize visual and non-visual factors of choice behavior. It can also be combined with manipulations of visual experience and pharmacological micro-infusions to investigate integrated brain function and learning processes in adult mice over consecutive days.