Automated Behavioral Experiments in Mice Reveal Periodic Cycles of Task Engagement within Circadian Rhythms

eNeuro. 2019 Oct 2;6(5):ENEURO.0121-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0121-19.2019. Print 2019 Sep/Oct.


High-throughput automated experiments accelerate discovery in neuroscience research and reduce bias. To enable high-throughput behavioral experiments, we developed a user-friendly and scalable automated system that can simultaneously train hundreds of mice on behavioral tasks, with time-stamped behavioral information recorded continuously for weeks. We trained 12 cages of C57BL/6J mice (24 mice, 2 mice/cage) to perform auditory behavioral tasks. We found that circadian rhythms modulated overall behavioral activity as expected for nocturnal animals. However, auditory detection and discrimination accuracy remained consistently high in both light and dark cycles. We also found a periodic modulation of behavioral response rates only during the discrimination task, suggesting that the mice periodically reduce task engagement (i.e., take "breaks") when task difficulty increases due to the more complex stimulus-response paradigm for discrimination versus detection. Our results highlight how automated systems for continuous high-throughput behavioral experiments enable both efficient data collection and new observations on animal behavior.

Keywords: auditory; circadian; high throughput; home cage; operant conditioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Acoustic Stimulation / psychology
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*