ActualHCA - Automated Home Cage Monitoring Software
Apart from a few routine checks during daylight hours, the activities of rodents in their home cage are almost entirely unobserved by researchers or technicians. Yet these data can reveal much about both welfare and phenotype of research animals.
ActualHCA offers a true solution with 24/7 automated monitoring of socially grouped animals in their true home-cages. Testing within the home cage is suitable for a number of interest areas, including but not limited to:
- Detecting and assessing safety/toxicological effects of candidate drugs
- Behavioural phenotyping of genetically altered animals
- Drug efficacy studies
- Studies of circadian rhythms
- Studies of social interactions
We are currently working closely with pharmaceutical and academic collaborators to develop the systems capabilities. This work includes seizure detection and traditional methods of pain assessment.
Rodents utilised in research are typically housed in small cages where they eat, sleep, drink, groom and interact socially. Animals are often placed in these cages from weaning and often establish social hierarchies and behaviours dependent on this social group. Currently, standard research design is to remove the rodent from the home-cage environment and placed in an unfamiliar apparatus. However, tests that measure behaviour are reliant on minimising influence on the outcome.
The system is capable of collecting spatial data for each individual animal at any given point, 24/7 over a period of many months. This removes the presence of any possible experimenter bias as well as removing any environmental disturbances whilst maintaining the social grouping within the cage. Monitoring rodents in this non-invasive manner, produces highly reproducible and robust data.
ActualHCA isn’t just a cage you can house your rodents in, it really is the true-home cage. The same home-cage the rodents are born, reared and housed in, where they establish their social groups. The system is highly compatible with modern high density individual ventilated caging (IVC) systems.
The system collects two levels of data, the first is positional and locomotive data. Rodents are subcutaneously chipped and a specially designed baseplate which contains a series of RFID antennae sits beneath the cage, the baseplate is read every 0.8 seconds to record the locomotive and positional behaviour of each individual rodent as well as their relationship to cage mates.
The second level of data collected is behavioural data, the systems camera produces high grade video and IR LED lighting is placed above the cage so light and dark are indistinguishable to the camera. Our computer learning specialists have manually annotated thousands of hours of footage and created our capture software which is specifically designed to automatically detect behaviour. Frame by frame the positional data from the baseplate is matched to the behavioural detection from the camera and software, the data sets are perfectly synchronised with zero drift.