Optoelectronic monitoring of individual whisker movements in rats

J Neurosci Methods. 1998 Sep 1;83(2):89-96. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(98)00050-8.


We describe two systems for the real-time recording and display of individual vibrissa movements in head-fixed rats. Both systems utilize high-speed, linear image sensors, each composed of an array of light sensitive elements (CCDs). Uniform illumination of the array generates a constant baseline voltage in each element. The shadow produced by the movement of a whisker interposed between the light source and the sensors produces a voltage shift in a subset of elements. The successive position of the shift is linearly related to the momentary whisker position. Associated software/hardware scans the array at regular intervals to identify the successive positions of voltages above a preset threshold and outputs the data to a microprocessor for computation of the whisker movement trajectory. In both systems, movements of a single whisker may be monitored 'on-line' with high spatial and temporal resolution; in one case with, in the other without the presence of neighboring whiskers. Optoelectronic monitoring facilitates rapid and efficient (computer-assisted) acquisition and analysis of data on rodent whisking behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Female
  • Fiber Optic Technology / instrumentation*
  • Fiber Optic Technology / methods*
  • Head / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vibrissae / physiology*