Researchers collaborating in Germany and Israel have developed a rodent cage integrated with a VR arena, which they say will enable “highly efficient experimentation for complex cognitive experiments.” According to the researchers, the development could facilitate many new applications. For example, miniature fluorescence microscopes could be used to monitor brain activity in freely moving rodents. In the current study, published today in the Journal of Neurophysiology, the researchers introduced rats to a spherical virtual reality treadmill called a servoball and monitored cells in the rats’ entorhinal cortex, a part of the brain that functions in memory and navigation. Why it’s relevant: the use of VR in animal models could dramatically expand our understanding of brain physiology in a range of VR replicated settings. This type of model could also be used to understand how VR effects the brain in general.
Kaupert U, Thurley K, Frei K, et al. Spatial cognition in a virtual reality home-cage extension for freely moving rodents. J Neurophysiol. 2017 Jan 11:jn.00630.2016. doi: 10.1152/jn.00630.2016.