Methods for chair restraint and training of the common marmoset on oculomotor tasks

J Neurophysiol. 2018 May 1;119(5):1636-1646. doi: 10.1152/jn.00866.2017. Epub 2018 Jan 24.


The oculomotor system is the most thoroughly understood sensorimotor system in the brain, due in large part to electrophysiological studies carried out in macaque monkeys trained to perform oculomotor tasks. A disadvantage of the macaque model is that many cortical oculomotor areas of interest lie within sulci, making high-density array and laminar recordings impractical. Many techniques of molecular biology developed in rodents, such as optogenetic manipulation of neuronal subtypes, are also limited in this species. The common marmoset ( Callithrix jacchus) possesses a smooth cortex, allowing easy access to frontoparietal oculomotor areas, and may bridge the gap between systems neuroscience in macaques and molecular techniques. Techniques for restraint, training, and neural recording in these animals have been well developed in auditory neuroscience. Those for oculomotor neuroscience, however, remain at a relatively early stage. In this article we provide details of a custom-designed restraint chair for marmosets, a combination head restraint/recording chamber allowing access to cortical oculomotor areas and providing stability suitable for eye movement and neural recordings, as well as a training protocol for oculomotor tasks. We additionally report the results of a psychophysical study in marmosets trained to perform a saccade task using these methods, showing that, as in rhesus and humans, marmosets exhibit a "gap effect," a decrease in reaction time when the fixation stimulus is removed before the onset of a visual saccade target. These results are the first evidence of this effect in marmosets and support the common marmoset model for neurophysiological investigations of oculomotor control. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The ability to carry out neuronal recordings in behaving primates has provided a wealth of information regarding the neural circuits underlying the control of eye movements. Such studies require restraint of the animal within a primate chair, head fixation, methods of acclimating the animals to this restraint, and the use of operant conditioning methods for training on oculomotor tasks. In contrast to the macaque model, relatively few studies have reported in detail methods for use in the common marmoset. In this report we detail custom-designed equipment and methods by which we have used to successfully train head-restrained marmosets to perform basic oculomotor tasks.

Keywords: common marmoset; gap effect; neurophysiology; oculomotor; saccade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Callithrix / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Restraint, Physical / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*

Grants and funding