The head-fixed behaving rat--procedures and pitfalls

Somatosens Mot Res. 2010;27(4):131-48. doi: 10.3109/08990220.2010.513111. Epub 2010 Oct 18.


This paper describes experimental techniques with head-fixed, operantly conditioned rodents that allow the control of stimulus presentation and tracking of motor output at hitherto unprecedented levels of spatio-temporal precision. Experimental procedures for the surgery and behavioral training are presented. We place particular emphasis on potential pitfalls using these procedures in order to assist investigators who intend to engage in this type of experiment. We argue that head-fixed rodent models, by allowing the combination of methodologies from molecular manipulations, intracellular electrophysiology, and imaging to behavioral measurements, will be instrumental in combining insights into the functional neuronal organization at different levels of observation. Provided viable behavioral methods are implemented, model systems based on rodents will be complementary to current primate models--the latter providing highest comparability with the human brain, while the former offer hugely advanced methodologies on the lower levels of organization, for example, genetic alterations, intracellular electrophysiology, and imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Head*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Restraint, Physical / instrumentation*
  • Restraint, Physical / methods*