Three years ago, I started my Post doc at the neurology institute of the Philipps University in Marburg (Germany).
The working field comprised neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Parkinson’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia. I focused on the analysis of animals’ behavior, especially deficits in motor functions which can be shown in the Novel Open Field test.
I planed to establish an automated video based behavior analysis tool in the new behavior laboratory.  The software system was expected to detect the behavior of mice as well as rats and should be able to be used for differed test settings, like Novel-Open-Field, Object-Recognition-Test, Social-Interaction-Test and furthermore for special applications like Olfactory testing  and Rotation behavior.
Before I started my Post Doc position I worked as a PhD student with different automated behavior detection systems. One was based on the beam break technology and could detect vertical and horizontal movement action very well. But for example, the detection of two animals in one setting, or the definition of event related zones in one arena was not possible.  Furthermore it was only useful for squared arenas and not in circular areas like the Morris- Water- Maze-Test. Another system we used, was based on the contrast detection between animal an background. This system was very useful do detect event related zones and detect the movement of the animal in different area settings, like the Plus-Maze-Test and also the Morris-Water-Maze Test. But these system had deficits in the detection of two animals and the detection of vertical rearing behavior was obviously not possible. So unfortunately all systems I was working with had some general problems and could not full fill all actual requirements.

So I looked for a program which can detect the behavior movement of animals in a flexible way (like different arena forms), in horizontal and vertical axis, and also in different area settings with either one or two animals. After short time I got in contact to Dr. Christian Gutzen, one of the founders of the Biobserve company in Bonn (Germany). His company offered a system which should be able to solve the existing problems and can detect the animal behavior in a high sophisticated way. So I doubtfully requested them to give me a proof of the possibilities of the Viewer System.

It was in 2005 that Dr. Gutzen visited me in Marburg. The presentation was quite promising and I admitted that the Viewer II system could be the optimal system. It could be detect more than one animals in different test settings and in addition they had a hardware solution for the rearing detection included in there behavior analysis tool. Besides, another advantage was the easy handling of the system. So we decided to buy the system and started our behavior testing with the Viewer system.

We used the system for the following test settings: Novel-Open-Field, Social-Interaction-Test, Object-Recognition-Test and  the Morris-Water-Mace-Test. Furthermore, we also tested olfaction  discrimination and rotation behavior with the system and intend to use the system for the Radial Maze and the Elevated Plus Maze. Furthermore we use the Viewer to detect four animals in parallel, so that we can study big cohorts of animals in a short time.

Now, after two years, the decision to use the Viewer II system proved to be right.
First of all I’m very  satisfied with the handling of the program. It is very easy and especially the Plug In structure offers the possibility to extend the range of the program for special applications. In our lab a lot of routine work is done by students what makes a short and easy introduction necessary. Any of my PhD students could use the software after a short time of introduction.
But the main improvements of the Viewer II system is based on the three point detection of the animal body axis. That means that not only the center of the body is available as a reference point for the system, also nose and tail can be detected. This is very useful for example to detect a closer contact of the animal to one object (Object-Recognition-Test) or to define a more detailed contact of two animals in the Social-Interaction-Test.

For me, this technical advantage was extreme necessary for a sophisticated detection of either specific contacts in the Social-Interaction-Test, but also in our olfaction test, which is very sensitive and need a strict detection if the nose of the animal is in close contact to one smelling object or to a dish with tasteful water. Beneath these advantage, the program can also detect all useful behavior parameters like track length, movement time, activity level, velocity, and several other types of movement behavior. With these parameters and the benefit of the body axis detection of the animal we were able to measure rotation behavior in animals with lesions in the motoric system (for example the unilateral 6-OHDA lesion in rats as a model for Parkinson’s disease).

Over all I’m very happy to work with the Viewer II software. Especially the support of the company Biobserve is excellent . Whenever a question for the detection of behavior occurred, all people from Biobserve are always endeavored in the shortest time to find a solution.

Dr. Andreas Borta
Experimental Neurology
Biomedical Research Center (BMFZ)
Philipps University
35043 Marburg, Germany