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Illustration of the Smart Kage functionality

Read the paper in Cell Reports Methods

Ho et al. develop a home-cage system for mice with a fully automated T-maze, novel object recognition, and object-in-place tasks, as well as monitoring of locomotion. The system shows accuracy comparable to analogous standard tests and can be used for large-scale behavioral screening for genes and neural circuits underlying learning and memory.

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Krupic, J. (2024). Smart-Kage: the home cage monitoring system for fully automated AI-based long-term continuous phenotyping of mouse cognition and behaviour.

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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of Smart-Kage compared with traditional behavioral products?

The Smart-Kage is a video and sensor-based home cage monitoring system. It runs T-maze, novel-object-recognition (NOR) and object-in-place recognition (OPR) tests in homecages (and more) in a fully automated way (no handling needed!). It also analyzes a full characterization of a mouse’s locomotion/activity behaviours. No food or water restriction is required. The Smart-Kages are accompanied by user-friendly software for experiment monitoring, control and near real-time data analysis. All can be done remotely. The system is easily scalable. No current system can offer such functionality and automation.

How reproducible are the experimental results obtained by multiple recording and analysis of the same animal?

The behaviour outcomes remain stable for many months (see Ho et al 2023).

How many behavioral experiments can an animal perform?

All of the above. It depends on the experimental design. Book a consultation call with us to learn more!

Can multiple animal interactions be observed simultaneously?

No.

How long can an animal stay in it?

There is no upper limit. The longest continuous experiment done so far lasted >12 months. We recommend 5-7 days of habituation before commencing any cognitive testing. as is usually done with any behavioural testing protocols

Have you experienced animals climbing on the holes in the walls? Did it disrupt data?

Sometimes they can climb on the corridor wall (but not on the holes). This happens rarely and does not disrupt data. 

can you adjust the amount of water to be delivered during T-maze responses?

At this time the mice ‘control’ how much water they receive. However, from the point of few of technology we should be able to adjust the amounts of water because it is a precise active water delivery.

Is training necessary for animals using Smart-Kage products for the first time?

No hands-on training is needed. Mice learn the T-maze task in about 3 days and keep improving for about 2 weeks. The performance remains stable for months. No training is required for the novel object recognition (NOR) and object-in-place recognition (OPR) tasks. No training is required for other passive behaviours (e.g. locomotion, running on the wheel, etc).

What behavioral experiments can Smart-Kage perform?

Cognitive tests:
T-maze, novel object recognition (NOR) test, object-in-place recognition (OPR) test, object-sequence-order recognition test, place preference test, and liquid preference test.
Passive behaviours:
Locomotion information (speed, time spent moving), visited locations, running on the wheel, movement directions, amount of consumed water and water consumption patterns.

How many animals should be done at least to obtain reproducible and reliable data?

It depends on the effect size of the mouse model. Book a consultation call with us to discuss!

How long does an experiment take?

It depends on the experimental design. See (1) for more details on task learning times. Book a consultation call with us.

any animals never learn the T-maze task?

No. Only mice with hippocampal lesions and full entorhinal lesions showed performance at a chance level. All other mice learned. The time it requires to learn may vary across animals by a few days. We provide access to a third (passive) bottle for a couple of days in the beginning for safety reasons just to be certain that the mice started to drink from both sides which are also activated. This especially applies to new places or new mice lines being tested. We are happy to discuss any design considerations in more detail if required.

have you considered a shelter for the Kages? could be IR transparent to see inside.
Yes, this could be done. We would use the shelter compatible with our LED lights (730 nm).  
We are also considering placing a fixed nesting box to quantify nest-building behaviours.
what else do the mice chew on that could be purchased up front as backups?
ladder, wheel, NOR panels. Corridor floors as well.

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