Wednesday, October 21st – I have been talking to so many interesting people around here. Not just researchers, but other vendors as well, such as our partner company Inscopix. It was great meeting some of the people from the company that made an important contribution to the research presented at our satellite symposium on Monday. I think there is a bright future ahead in combining live brain imaging with video tracking technology and I hope to be reporting about it more in the near future.
Another company we feel connected to is Sylics, although there was no need for me to travel far to meet Maarten Loos, as he is from The Netherlands like me. In fact, we showed his company’s CognitionWall in our booth, as it is designed to fit our PhenoTyper cages. Loos presented two posters at this SfN meeting.
Efficient home cage testing
The first poster described the adaptation of typical conditioning tasks to a home cage environment. In autism, Alzheimer’s, and other brain disorder research, tests often involve food restriction and extensive training and handling.
By adapting typical tests to a home cage environment, Loos and his colleagues effectively eliminated these potential confounds. A reversal learning task, an adapted version of the five choice serial reaction time task, and a novel attentional set-shifting protocol showed that the same endpoints can be measured in the home cage.The 24-hour access to the test did not impact circadian rhythm as most activity still took place during the dark. As an added benefit, there is less handling and animals learn faster.
One-night cognition testing
Just how much faster they learned became apparent from the second poster. It described some research on Alzheimer’s symptomatology, and detailed the newly developed CognitionWall. This is a wall with three holes that can be placed inside a PhenoTyper home cage. A reward dispenser is placed behind the wall; for the mouse to get the food reward it must enter through the correct hole.
The great thing about this test is that it is a one-night discriminative learning task, and – again – there is no interference from human handling. It seems like discrimination and reversal learning just got a lot easier!
I found the zebrafish!
While there were not as many zebrafish posters as I might have expected (or I missed them, which is possible as there were so many posters!) I finally saw a lot today. One that especially caught my eye was research from Bard College in New York. They study anxiety and exploration- like behaviors in zebrafish larvae, in 6 well plates. Nothing special, you might think, but actually they connected the wells so that the zebrafish could explore all 6 wells at once. I hope to be finding out more about this research soon!
I also saw some cool research from the Gerlai Lab at the University of Toronto (Ontario), so I again hope to follow up on that soon.
Time to say goodbye
So then it was time to finish up and break down the booth. Although I look forward to getting home, I am kind of sad. I had so much fun with my colleagues (some I rarely get to see) and learned a lot from everyone I spoke to at the conference.
Thank you all so much for a wonderful experience! And please keep in touch!