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VIDEO: Sensor-based system for tracking animal movements
So can you tell me the name of your
project and a bit more about it?
So we're a sensor based system for
tracking animal movements and we're
working with the Psychology Department
at Queen's and one of the tests that they
use to monitor anxiety and anxiety
treatments in animals is an elevated
plus maze. So you can see right there an
elevated plus maze is kind of a maze
it's more of a cross and it has two
closed arms and two open arms
and what they'll do is put the rat down in
the middle of the maze and they'll give
it 5 minutes to wander around and see
where it goes. So normally animals like
rodents display a thigmotaxis bias so they
kind of slink along the wall away to stay
safe from predators but if an anti-anxiety
treatment is working then they'll spend
more time out in the open where they
will feel less safe and more curious.
So what they do after a test is they'll look
at footage which will look somewhat
like that and they'll go through and
they'll score how long the rat spent in
each different type of arm and
how many entries it made.
But the big problem is that the
standard for making an arm entry is that
it has to have all four feet cross
the line out of the choice point in the
middle. So it's kind of hard to tell and
make it consistent between different
researchers looking at the footage.
And how do you find the link between
the Electrical and Computer Engineering
and to your other partner?
All of us have interest outside of just
our home discipline of Electrical
and Computer Engineering. So we're
hoping to find something to give us a bit
of context for the theory that we're
learning and we found that working
with more Biomedical or Psychology
application of our research
is useful because it puts the system
and the sensors and stuff into real world
context and gives us the chance to actually
apply them and see how it
works with real users.
So when you were going through the
design of your project
what were some of the considerations that
your stakeholders had requested?
Working with animal test subjects it was
really important to consider how our
system would affect their behaviour.
So one of the things they said that is
if there were loose wires on the system
they would chew those wires
or big lights or sound would distract them
and alter their behaviour.
So we wanted to make
sure that there were no inconsistencies
between the existing testing protocols
and what our system would do. So one
thing we really wanted to do was we were
really considering a wearable unit
And we were concerned that
maybe that would affect the animal's
behaviour but we consulted with the
Psychology department and they said that
actually they habituate very
well to harnesses like this.
Another good thing about our
harness is the electronic component
is actually removable. The harness
can be washed between test subjects
and then also the foam coating we have on
the maze can also be washed and cleaned.
Can you tell me a bit more about the
So the first sensor we used to implement
our design was the force sensors
which are in the middle of the maze
which we call the choice point
When the rat is on the choice point the
sensors will give us a 1 for
"rat is on the choice point". And when it
leaves and enters an arm it will give us a 0.
So one of the points of the test is to
count the amount of times it enters an arm
and to count how much time it spends in
We've heard a little bit about the
overall scope of your design, but
can you tell me about the technical
aspects of it?
So our system has two parts to it.
There's four force sensors that are on the
maze and we use those sensors to determine
when it has actually entered an arm so when
it leaves the sensor we can count an arm entry
and we need to determine which one and
that's why we have the wearbles component
which is going to be on the rat and it has
the IMU sensor
which stands for Inertial
Measurement Unit and it has
an accelerometer, a gyroscope and
a magnetometer on it.
So we use that to
determine where the rat is.
Right now we can use
this data to determine
which arm it has entered in.
What would you say are the next steps
either for yourselves and your team
and or for your stakeholders?
So one thing that our stakeholders
mentioned is that it would be nice to
have a visual output along with
the output that we have already
and we are currently actually working
on that using the data from the IMU we're
trying to output exactly where
the rat is in the maze
and we've gotten results but
so far there's a lot of noise
that comes with the data
including problems with
the bluetooth. We still have to make the
data more consistent and more reliable.
We'd like to see how else we could apply
For example: right now
it's only for rats,
they also do
perform elevated plus mazes on
mice as well.
And most of our requirements
right now are outlined by the Psycology
department here at Queen's but we could
also talk to other departments and see
what other types of behaviour that
they're interested in cause we could
get a lot of from the IMU.
We can determine if
its rearing against the
wall or if it's just staying in one place
or just hyperactive.
So there's just a lot of potential...