A new automatic method for tracking rats in the Morris water maze

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Morris water maze (MWM) test is widely used to evaluate the learning and memory deficits in rodents. Image processing and pattern recognition can be used to analyse videos and recognize automatically the tracking in MWM. There are several commercial and free access software that allows analyzing the behavioral tasks although they also have limitations such as automation, cost, user intervention among other things. The aim of this paper was to develop a new image processing technique to automatically analyse the track of the rat in the MWM, which we called RatsTrack. The MWM test was performed with an animal model for Alzheimer, and the videos were recorded to measure the distance, time, and speed. The segmentation method based on the projection of the video frames was made for pool identification, eliminating the rat, while conserving the shape of the pool. Then, the Hough transformation was used to recognize the position and radius of the pool. Finally, the frame in which the rat is released into the pool was established automatically using mathematical morphology techniques and added as a plugin on free access ImageJ software. The new image processing technique, RatsTrack, successfully detected and located the pool and rat without user intervention, significantly decreasing operational time and providing results for distance, time, speed, and acceleration parameters of the MWM test. Alzheimer's rats compared with the control group presented significant data measured with the RatsTrack. RatsTrack is a plugin of ImageJ software and will be made freely available for public use.




Forero, M. G., Hernández, N. C., Morera, C. M., Aguilar, L. A., Aquino, R., & Baquedano, L. E. (2023). A new automatic method for tracking rats in the Morris water maze. Heliyon, 9(7). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e18367

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