Towards full automation of behaviour training and behaviour measurement
Behaviour is caused through mechanisms implemented in the brain. Therefore, behaviour output can be used to evaluate brain function. Brain science requires behaviour science. For measuring specific behaviours, previous training may be necessary. Behaviour measurement is often conducted in cages or arenas equipped with electromechanical interaction devices and complemented with electronic sensors. In theory such environments could be operated fully automatically. While the basic principles of the necessary automation technology are long known and are used in industry with great sophistication such as for car manufacturing, lack of monetary funds continues to greatly slow down the process of introducing automation technology for measuring behaviour of live animals fully-automatically. The required technologies are machine vision and machine learning, animal adapted mechatronics, RFID, wireless data transmission and big data analysis algorithms. These technologies are required for quantifying voluntary behaviour of single animals or social groups, they are needed to perform operant experiments 24/7 with socially housed animals and, finally, can be used to have animals equipped for brain imaging or brain functional sensing automatically engage in measurement stations for brain function. Examples of the current state of the art of automation technology for behaviour research with rodents will be presented.
Prof. York Winter is interested in how behaviour adapts animals to pursue their goals under the complex conditions of natural environments. This knowledge of animal behaviour is used to perform diagnostic tests in mouse and rat models of neurological and psychiatric diseases to promote translational research for medical purposes. The Berlin Mouse Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry, a modern behaviour diagnostic facility, is operated by him and his team within the NeuroCure Center of Excellence.
A long standing interest of Prof. Winter is the development of computer-based automation technology for the study of behaviour. His dedicated engineering lab at Humboldt University develops novel behaviour detection and experimentation technologies. He is also the founder of the start-up companies PhenoSys and LabMaker which develop these technologies further and help spreading them by reaching out not only to scientists but also to customers with their special demands.