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Y-Maze | Michael Spratt





Currently I am sunsetting a research and development project designed to develop proprietorial technologies and devices (Original Equipment Manufacture) for commercial (i.e. Pharmaceutical) research markets.  The goal is to develop products which can be mass produced in series.






The Y-Maze is used for the analysis of spontaneous alternation in the Y-maze, a reference procedure to assess the spatial working memory component in mice and rats.

An automated Y-maze system designed for animal (in this case mice) behaviour studies in a research context. The devices replaces human observers who are researching for a cure for Alzheimer which is a degenerative mental disorder effecting millions of elderly persons worldwide.

By automating the study the scientists obtain objective observation and instantaneous data analysis while saving precious time and resources.   This was an auto-financed in collaboration with INSERM (French Medical Research Institution) and a Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc laboratory.


Why Y-Maze Tests (or a T-maze, X-Maze or Radial-Mase.)

Rodents show a natural tendency to explore their environment. The spontaneous alternation test relies on the latent learning processes involved during exploration of shaped maze.

When walking out of an arm of the maze, animals remember from which arm they came and explore the third arm finalizing a complete alternation. Sessions last classically eight to ten minutes.

Instead of the investigator manually scoring the series of arm entries, An automated Y-Maze performs this scoring automatically through six infra-red beams located within or at the entry of each arm. The automated Y-Maze are linked to a PC software analyzing beam breaks in real-time and calculating the number of arm entries, alternations and choice hesitations.



Typical y-maze use


2 y-maze prototype

Several prototype systems were designed and tested


The advantages of Y-Maze is its an affordable investment for a reliable and powerful automated tracking and behavior detection solution, stressless for animals, and performing a working memory test which is a validated procedure with far-reaching neuropharmacological predictive value.


– Complete Y-maze mouse behavior analysis device

– Record animal activity using highly sensitive I.R. beams

– High throughput capability up to 16 maze simultaneously

– Real-time or offline – Continuous recording and analysis

– No user intervention during experiment

– Can work in total obscurity

– Detailed statistics describing events that occurred during the experiments

– Real-time analyses of animal behavior

– Events the Y-Mase can detect: # of arm entries # of alternations Percentage of alternation # of clockwise/counter-clockwise alternations # of choice hesitations




The system is composted of several sections : · A Y maze constructed of hard resistant PVC in which the mouse is free to move in any of the three arms. Each arm of the Y maze is equipped with 2 infrared (850nm) optical sensors. Each sensor is composed of an emitter and detector which signals the presence of the mouse as it explores the Y maze. The 6 infrared optical sensors of each Y maze are connected to an electronic interface which captures and processes the signals and then relays them to a I/O (input/output) digital converter which is connected to a PC computer via the USB interface. 240 volt / 12 volt-2A power supply provides the electrical current necessary for the electronic equipment. A program on the PC computer interfaces with this equipment and the scientist’s requirements. Each Y maze has its own unique address recognized by the PC computer.


The application provides a simple and effective means to communicate with the Y mazes and permits the scientists to run simultaneous experiments with minimum supervision


Screen-Y-maze-configuration Screen-experement





The scientist indicates the duration of a session (in seconds) and releases the mouse into a Y maze. The program captures the signal indicating the mouse’s position in the Y maze and stores it to a data file along with the time (accurate to the millisecond).

The program stops collecting data after the indicated time has expired. The stored data is automatically analyzed to establish the mouse’s behavior such as its pathway, number of arms explored (NAE), Clock and Counter Wise (CW and CCW) motion and number of hesitations.

Several options exist for analyzing and exporting session results to Excel. Data entry screens and simple menus permit the user to easily enter the minimum of data and quickly run sessions.

The advantages of this program are :

· A scientist can perform an unlimited number of sessions.

· Run several simultaneous sessions.

· Minimum or no supervision of individual sessions.

· No manual data collection and then later data entry.

· Automated data analysis

· Instant results.

· Simple and flexible user interface.

Y-Maze Tracking Screen











Session data can be accessed and reports generated at any time.


There are several report types of outputs which resume sessions and exports the data to Excel.The performance of each mouse is summarized in this report.this report at any time. It shows the performance (path, statistics) of every mouse tested in an experience.
Excel Report of Detailing All Mice


This Excel spread sheet illustrates each mouse’s exploration over time.  The analysis is broken down into user sleeted time intervals.  In this case the time interval is 60 seconds.
Provides a Summary of Each Mouse's Behavior


Details of a mouse’s motion indicates hesitations, spinning, speeds and  stopovers. This reports show the evolution of the mouse’s exploration over time

Excel Report Showing the Creation of the Path and It's Statistices

This reports show the evolution of the mouse’s exploration over time





This program is used to discover discrepancies between the human observed behavior and the computer program



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