OpenControl: a free opensource software for video tracking and automated control of behavioral mazes

J Neurosci Methods. 2007 Oct 15;166(1):66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2007.06.020. Epub 2007 Jul 1.


Operant animal behavioral tests require the interaction of the subject with sensors and actuators distributed in the experimental environment of the arena. In order to provide user independent reliable results and versatile control of these devices it is vital to use an automated control system. Commercial systems for control of animal mazes are usually based in software implementations that restrict their application to the proprietary hardware of the vendor. In this paper we present OpenControl: an opensource Visual Basic software that permits a Windows-based computer to function as a system to run fully automated behavioral experiments. OpenControl integrates video-tracking of the animal, definition of zones from the video signal for real-time assignment of animal position in the maze, control of the maze actuators from either hardware sensors or from the online video tracking, and recording of experimental data. Bidirectional communication with the maze hardware is achieved through the parallel-port interface, without the need for expensive AD-DA cards, while video tracking is attained using an inexpensive Firewire digital camera. OpenControl Visual Basic code is structurally general and versatile allowing it to be easily modified or extended to fulfill specific experimental protocols and custom hardware configurations. The Visual Basic environment was chosen in order to allow experimenters to easily adapt the code and expand it at their own needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavioral Research / instrumentation*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Computer Systems
  • Computers
  • Computing Methodologies
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Electronic Data Processing / instrumentation*
  • Electronic Data Processing / methods
  • Electronics, Medical / standards*
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Microcomputers
  • Programming Languages
  • Rats
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Software / standards*
  • Software Design
  • Software Validation
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Videotape Recording / instrumentation*
  • Videotape Recording / methods