Nesting box imager: Contact-free, real-time measurement of activity, surface body temperature, and respiratory rate applied to hibernating mouse models

by Nathaniel E. Kallmyer, Han Jong Shin, Ethan A. Brem, William J. Israelsen, Nigel F. Reuel

Noncontact methods to measure animal activity and physiology are necessary to monitor undisturbed states such as hibernation. Although some noncontact measurement systems are commercially available, they are often incompatible with realistic habitats, which feature freely moving animals in small, cluttered environments. A growing market of single-board computers, microcontrollers, and inexpensive sensors has made it possible to assemble bespoke integrated sensor systems at significantly lower price points. Herein, we describe a custom-built nesting box imager (NBI) that uses a single-board computer (Raspberry Pi) with a passive infrared (IR) motion sensor, silicon charge-coupled device (CCD), and IR camera CCD to monitor the activity, surface body temperature, and respiratory rate of the meadow jumping mouse during hibernation cycles. The data are logged up to 12 samples per minute and postprocessed using custom Matlab scripts. The entire unit can be built at a price point below US$400, which will be drastically reduced as IR (thermal) arrays are integrated into more consumer electronics and become less expensive.

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