OptoPi: An open source flexible platform for the analysis of small animal behaviour

More about Open Access at the Crick


Behaviour is the ultimate output of neural circuit computations, and therefore its analysis is a cornerstone of neuroscience research. However, every animal and experimental paradigm requires different illumination conditions to capture and, in some cases, manipulate specific behavioural features. This means that researchers often develop, from scratch, their own solutions and experimental set-ups. Here, we present OptoPi, an open source, affordable (∼ £600), behavioural arena with accompanying multi-animal tracking software. The system features highly customisable and reproducible visible and infrared illumination and allows for optogenetic stimulation. OptoPi acquires images using a Raspberry Pi camera, features motorised LED-based illumination, Arduino control, as well as irradiance monitoring to fine-tune illumination conditions with real time feedback. Our open-source software (BioImageProcessing) can be used to simultaneously track multiple unmarked animals both in on-line and off-line modes. We demonstrate the functionality of OptoPi by recording and tracking under different illumination conditions the spontaneous behaviour of larval zebrafish as well as adult Drosophila flies and their first instar larvae, an experimental animal that due to its small size and transparency has classically been hard to track. Further, we showcase OptoPi’s optogenetic capabilities through a series of experiments using transgenic Drosophila larvae.

Journal details

Journal HardwareX
Volume 15
Pages e00443
Available online
Publication date