A complete pupillometry toolbox for real-time monitoring of locus coeruleus activity in rodents

Nat Protoc. 2020 Aug;15(8):2301-2320. doi: 10.1038/s41596-020-0324-6. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


The locus coeruleus (LC) is a region in the brainstem that produces noradrenaline and is involved in both normal and pathological brain function. Pupillometry, the measurement of pupil diameter, provides a powerful readout of LC activity in rodents, primates and humans. The protocol detailed here describes a miniaturized setup that can screen LC activity in rodents in real-time and can be established within 1-2 d. Using low-cost Raspberry Pi computers and cameras, the complete custom-built system costs only ~300 euros, is compatible with stereotaxic surgery frames and seamlessly integrates into complex experimental setups. Tools for pupil tracking and a user-friendly Pupillometry App allow quantification, analysis and visualization of pupil size. Pupillometry can discriminate between different, physiologically relevant firing patterns of the LC and can accurately report LC activation as measured by noradrenaline turnover. Pupillometry provides a rapid, non-invasive readout that can be used to verify accurate placement of electrodes/fibers in vivo, thus allowing decisions about the inclusion/exclusion of individual animals before experiments begin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation*
  • Pupil / physiology*
  • Time Factors