Facial tracking for rats

One of our interests is to understand how the brain integrates sensory information from the environment with information about the animal’s current posture and movement status to coordinate future behavior.

A relevant region in the brain that is important for this type of sensory-motor integration is posterior parietal cortex (PPC). To study this topic, we are developing a novel recording setup that will enable us to simultaneously record neural activity, 3D body posture, as well as the movement of the animal’s eyes and whiskers.

A prototype of the head-mounted set-up for the project. The set-up combines two facial-tracking cameras, as well as housing for the neural probe (which is inserted into the brain at a specific angle to reach the regions of interest) and the reflective markers for 3D posture-tracking.

An example of a facial camera video (slowed down 5x). Relevant points on the whiskers and eye can be tracked with DeepLabCut [cite/link] software using deep neural networks.