Skilled forelimb behaviors are among the most important for studying motor learning in multiple species including humans. This protocol describes learned forelimb tasks for mice using a two-axis robotic manipulandum. Our device provides a highly compact adaptation of actuated planar two-axis arms that is simple and inexpensive to construct. This paradigm has been dominant for decades in primate motor neuroscience. Our device can generate arbitrary virtual movement tracks, arbitrary time-varying forces or arbitrary position- or velocity-dependent force patterns. We describe several example tasks permitted by our device, including linear movements, movement sequences and aiming movements. We provide the mechanical drawings and source code needed to assemble and control the device, and detail the procedure to train mice to use the device. Our software can be simply extended to allow users to program various customized movement assays. The device can be assembled in a few days, and the time to train mice on the tasks that we describe ranges from a few days to several weeks. Furthermore, the device is compatible with various neurophysiological techniques that require head fixation.
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An example raw data file is provided in Supplementary Data 1. Additional data are available upon reasonable request.
LabVIEW code used for operating the robotic manipulandum is available from GitHub: https://GitHub.com/mjwagner/haptic-for-mice.
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M.J.W. is supported by a Career Award at the Scientific Interface from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. M.J.S. and L.L. are HHMI investigators. This work was supported by NIH and NSF grants.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Protocols thanks Silvestro Micera and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Key references using this protocol
Wagner, M. J. et al. Cell 177, 669–682 (2019): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.02.019
Wagner, M. J. et al. Nature 544, 96–100 (2017): https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21726.
Supplementary Fig. 1.
Mouse executing a task in which it is required to reach to one of three target regions (as in Fig. 4e).
Example raw data set from which Fig. 4f and the right-most panel of Fig. 4g are derived.
STL files that can be used directly to print the custom manipulandum parts, and the aluminum flange STP file for machining services.
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Wagner, M.J., Savall, J., Kim, T.H. et al. Skilled reaching tasks for head-fixed mice using a robotic manipulandum. Nat Protoc 15, 1237–1254 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41596-019-0286-8