ABSTRACT: We describe a fully automated, live-in 24/7 test environment, with experimental protocols that measure the accuracy and precision with which mice match the ratio of their expected visit durations to the ratio of the incomes obtained from two hoppers, the progress of instrumental and classical conditioning (trials-to-acquisition), the accuracy and precision of interval timing, the effect of relative probability on the choice of a timed departure target, and the accuracy and precision of memory for the times of day at which food is available. The system is compact; it obviates the handling of the mice during testing; it requires negligible amounts of experimenter/technician time; and it delivers clear and extensive results from 3 protocols within a total of 7-9 days after the mice are placed in the test environment. Only a single 24-hour period is required for the completion of first protocol (the matching protocol), which is strong test of temporal and spatial estimation and memory mechanisms. Thus, the system permits the extensive screening of many mice in a short period of time and in limited space. The software is publicly available.
Acta Psychologica Sinica 01/2010; 42(1):138-158.