Industry Insights with Trent Lund on the ANY-maze Operant Interface
This episode of Share Science features Trent Lund, PhD, president of Stoelting Co. Stoelting combines tradition with innovation, offering researchers the most inclusive neuroscience equipment line in the industry. In this interview, Trent shares some of Stoelting’s latest developments, including the deceptively simple and surprisingly powerful ANY-maze, a behavioral tracking software.
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How did the idea for ANY-maze’s operant interface come about?
Just like most updates and features in ANY-maze, the decision to come out with an operant interface started because a researcher came to us with a need and asked if we could help. As mentioned in our recent webinar, ANY-maze has historically been a video tracking software. However, to some degree, ANY-maze has always provided an avenue to connect third-party equipment. We formalized this concept and around 2007, we introduced the ANY-maze interface, which has since evolved into several other interfaces.
“We have a digital interface, optogenetics interface, electrophysiology interface, [and an] analog interface.”
There are all sorts of ways to connect to ANY-maze. We had an increasing number of researchers who wanted to connect and run their operant test using ANY-maze. While we could do this with our digital interface, it was a complicated setup. Once we had walked enough users through the process, we realized that a specific interface designed to be a drop-in replacement for the Med Connection panel would provide a simpler and less expensive solution. We started with an operant interface designed to be used with meta-social equipment, which quickly transitioned to designing interfaces for Lafayette and Coulbourn equipment, as researchers wanted to use that equipment with ANY-maze.
“What we found is that researchers are most often interested in controlling their operant experiments with ANY-maze because they’re familiar with [its] design and they’re appreciative of [its] ease of use.”
ANY-maze’s procedures are simple to understand and therefore simple to create. This idea applies to the other manufacturers as well: the ability to write and revise their procedures is critical and vital to operant researchers, and so we gave that power to the users. We detailed the use of these procedures in our webinar, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d encourage you to do so if this is something that interests you.
What are some of the other benefits that come along with ANY-maze’s operant interface?
Really, it’s the ease of use. ANY-maze’s users tell us time and again that the system is just much easier to understand and use than other software. Across the entire life cycle of the experiment, ANY-maze is easy to use, from set up to testing to analyzing results. Additionally, most other systems only provide results for individual tests, but ANY-maze goes a step further by providing tools to analyze groups of tests, such as ANOVA to identify differences between treatment groups.
Do you still need to use the Med PC software?
No, you don’t need to use the Med PC at all. You can just retire that, as well as other operant conditioning softwares–they can be completely replaced with ANY-maze. In simple terms, what you’re going to keep will be all the components that are inside the cage where the animal is, and everything else can be removed. To be strictly accurate, you will keep everything connected to the Med Connection panel and instead connect them to ANY-maze’s operant interface. On ANY-maze’s website, you can see a list of all components that are controlled by ANY-maze. If your equipment is on that list, ANY-maze can control it and you can run it through the operant interface.
Is ANY-maze’s operant interface available right now?
It is: the Lafayette interface will be ready by the end of 2022 and the Coulbourn interface will be available within the first few months of 2023. We covered a lot in the webinar, and if what we discussed here is any indication of something you’ll enjoy, we encourage you to go see that webinar.
Additionally, ANY-maze, including the operant interface, is available for researchers to test before they commit to buying. If you’re interested in this, head over to any-maze.com and download a free trial. This trial unlocks all of ANY-maze’s features and allows you to really explore the software and make sure that it’s a good fit for your research.
ANY-maze also comes with all the updates and it’s going to continue to progress. We understand that lots of researchers have lots of diverse needs, and so as the software evolves, your copy will always stay fresh. You’re always able to go and get the latest version of ANY-maze for no charge. Tech support is also always available: we have a great team who can take these very complicated things, help walk you through, and get your system set up and ready to go.