The mouse is an increasingly prominent model for the analysis of mammalian neuronal circuits. Neural circuits ultimately have to be probed during behaviors that engage the circuits. Linking circuit dynamics to behavior requires precise control of sensory stimuli and measurement of body movements. Head-fixation has been used for behavioral research, particularly in non-human primates, to facilitate precise stimulus control, behavioral monitoring and neural recording. However, choicebased, perceptual decision tasks by head-fixed mice have only recently been introduced. Training mice relies on motivating mice using water restriction. Here we describe procedures for head-fixation, water restriction and behavioral training for head-fixed mice, with a focus on active, whisker-based tactile behaviors. In these experiments mice had restricted access to water (typically 1 ml/day). After ten days of water restriction, body weight stabilized at approximately 80% of initial weight. At that point mice were trained to discriminate sensory stimuli using operant conditioning. Head-fixed mice reported stimuli by licking in go/no-go tasks and also using a forced choice paradigm using a dual lickport. In some cases mice learned to discriminate sensory stimuli in a few trials within the first behavioral session. Delay epochs lasting a second or more were used to separate sensation (e.g. tactile exploration) and action (i.e. licking). Mice performed a variety of perceptual decision tasks with high performance for hundreds of trials per behavioral session. Up to four months of continuous water restriction showed no adverse health effects. Behavioral performance correlated with the degree of water restriction, supporting the importance of controlling access to water. These behavioral paradigms can be combined with cellular resolution imaging, random access photostimulation, and whole cell recordings.
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