Dye-enhanced visualization of rat whiskers for behavioral studies

Elife. 2017 Jun 14:6:e25290. doi: 10.7554/eLife.25290.


Visualization and tracking of the facial whiskers is required in an increasing number of rodent studies. Although many approaches have been employed, only high-speed videography has proven adequate for measuring whisker motion and deformation during interaction with an object. However, whisker visualization and tracking is challenging for multiple reasons, primary among them the low contrast of the whisker against its background. Here, we demonstrate a fluorescent dye method suitable for visualization of one or more rat whiskers. The process makes the dyed whisker(s) easily visible against a dark background. The coloring does not influence the behavioral performance of rats trained on a vibrissal vibrotactile discrimination task, nor does it affect the whiskers' mechanical properties.

Keywords: beam dynamics; fluorescence; imaging; kinematics; neuroscience; rat; tracking; whisker.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Rats
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*
  • Vibrissae / physiology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.