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Automation of the Morris water-maze test requires robust tracking, flexible zone design, good experiment management and a selection of specialist results

ANY-maze provides all these features and more. Use the tabs below to learn more about using ANY-maze with the Morris water-maze.

We've included some videos of real water-maze tests, so you can see the system in action, as well as details on recommended equipment, such as suitable cameras, and a list of results that are especially useful in this test.

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Tracking in the water-maze poses a unique set of challenges including reflections from the water, instances when the animal dives and the wide variation in conditions under which the test is performed.

The video on the right shows ANY-maze tracking an animal in a black maze in very low light. Note the reflection in the top-right, which, while not severe, is very similar in shape and colour to the rat. Despite these challenges, ANY-maze tracks without errors.

Starting tests

Another common requirement in the water-maze is for tracking to start as soon as the animal is placed in the maze. In ANY-maze this can be achieved using the auto-start option, which automatically begins the test as soon as the experimenter leaves the camera’s view – as demonstrated in this video.

In some cases this may not be fast enough – for example, if the experimenter has to walk around the apparatus in order to leave the camera’s view – in which case you can use an ANY-maze remote start switch, to begin the test the instant the animal enters the water.

Moveable zones

The water-maze usually includes an escape platform, but this is often placed in a different location for each animal. In ANY-maze it’s easy to create moveable zones together with a list of the different locations they can adopt – see the image in the right.

Once the platform zone is set up, you just have to tell ANY-maze where it will be located for each animal and the software does the rest – automatically taking the location into consideration when determining test end, calculating results, etc.

Moveable zones picture

Dividing the experiment into stages

Water-maze experiments are almost always divided into different stages, for example a training stage and a probe stage. ANY-maze allows you to specify the experiment design so it is aware of the different stages and the trials within them.

This means that while running the tests ANY-maze can automatically assess such things as training criteria, and it also helps when analysing results, as you can easily perform comparisons between different groups in different stages and/or trials.

Dividing the experiment into stages picture

Track plots and heat maps

Track plots and heat maps provide excellent tools for visualising the animals’ search strategies in the water-maze. Track plots can be colour coded, for example, by time segment, and can include markers to indicate where specific events occurred.

Heat maps can show data for an individual test, but can also show mean data for groups of animals – which can be very useful for visually comparing the groups’ performance in probe trials.

Both formats can easily be copied and pasted into presentations or saved in high resolution for publication.

Track plots and heat maps picture

Nothing’s set in stone

In ANY-maze almost everything defined in the protocol can be altered before, during or even after an experiment has been performed.

For example, you might perform a water-maze experiment without including a Thigmotaxis zone – but this wouldn’t prevent you from adding one afterwards. ANY-maze would simply re-analyse the tracking data and almost instantly report the results for the new zone – watch the video to see this in action.