► October 2013: Ben Scott develops voluntary head fixation system, demonstrates cellular-resolution imaging in behaving rats

Ben Scott, a postdoc in the Brody and Tank labs, has developed a system for voluntary head-fixation in rats (Scott, Brody, and Tank, Neuron 2013). Based on the principles of kinematic mounts often used in optics, the system allows precise re-positioning of a rat’s head, across multiple trials of a behavior, with an accuracy of a few microns. This enables cellular-resolution calcium imaging in behaving rats. In addition, because the rats engage the system voluntarily, the approach is amenable to high-throughput training. Thanks to Ben’s work, we can now use the lab’s training facility to teach voluntarily head-fixing rats to perform complex cognitive behaviors requiring many months to train. We are using this is to perform the first cellular-resolution imaging assays of neural activity involved in higher cognitive processes.