How to run Elevated Plus Maze ExperimentsIf you are using an automated system like HVS Image 2013 you won't need to fill out data sheets, but you should have a Master Experiment Planning File MEPF) with subject number of animal, date, coded condition and experimenter's name set up on the system.
Make sure maze is cleaned and dried before use and that video-tracking system is ready to be used to remove olfactory cues. The open arm is set up vertically in the camera's field of view, the closed or walled arm is horizontal.
Mount the camera firmly in place using a small C-clamp or hot melt glue. (This is for 2013 LifeCam style cameras. If you are using a 2100 or 2020 style system you will have a ceiling mounted photographic camera mount). Use an active USB 2.0 lead if necessary to reach the PC. Clip the cable out of the field of view with cable ties (otherwise if it flaps into view it will get tracked). Calibrate the system using the maze in exactly the position that it will be in when you run the experiment. Set up tracking with exactly the lighting that you will use when running the experiments. Take care to avoid shadows or glare in the tracking area.
Use an individual temporary transport cage to transport the rat or mouse into the behavioral testing room.
Now GENTLY and carefully take the animal out of its transport cage and place at the junction of the open and closed arms, facing upwards in the camera's field of view i.e. pointing along the the open arm opposite to where the experimenter is standing. Always handle your animals consistently and gently to ensure reliable consistent behavior, and place each animal in the elevated plus maze in the same position each time to get consistent, reliable data. Stress will change your animal's behavior[1,2] and ruin your results.