Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 773–785 | Cite as

ARENA 2.0: The next generation automated remote environmental navigation apparatus to facilitate cross-species comparisons in behavior and cognition

  • Julia Schroeder
  • Dennis Garlick
  • Aaron P. Blaisdell


A series of experiments illustrated the effectiveness and flexibility of a newly developed Automated Remote Environmental Navigation Apparatus (ARENA) as an alternative to traditional operant and open-field procedures. This system improves the concept developed by Badelt and Blaisdell (Behavior Research Methods, 40, 613–621, 2008; see also Leising, Garlick, Parenteau, & Blaisdell in Behavioural Processes, 81, 105–113, 2009), with significant upgrades in flexibility and reliability, as well as a reduction in cost. ARENA is particularly well adapted for open-field studies and eliminates many confounding factors associated with traditional procedures, such as handling effects and physical cues left by the subject. The original system was based on wireless modules with a small stimulus–response well. Nosepokes or pecks within the aperture of the well could be detected and recorded by a computer. ARENA 2.0 increases the flexibility of this system by replacing the modules with stimulus presentation through a data projector mounted on the ceiling and response detection and recording through a video camera system. We report the specifics of this system as well as behavioral tests using rats and pigeons. We demonstrated the feasibility of ARENA 2.0 for the acquisition of conditional approach to a visual target, followed by tests showing generalization of performance to novel locations and visual properties of the target. These experiments support the use of this technology for automated tasks traditionally studied through open-field preparations or using touchscreen-equipped operant chambers. The advantages of ARENA 2.0 over the original system are a significant reduction in cost and increased reliability, ease of use, and flexibility in both stimulus configuration and subject response measures.


Operant Open field Comparative Automation Behavior Cognition 


Author note

Support for this research was provided by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant NS059076 (A.P.B.) and by National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant BCS-0843027 (A.P.B.). This research was conducted following the relevant ethics guidelines for research with animals and was approved by UCLA’s institutional IACUC.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Schroeder
    • 1
  • Dennis Garlick
    • 1
  • Aaron P. Blaisdell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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