Slater, H., Milne, A. E., Wilson, B. et al. 2016. Individually customisable non-invasive head immobilisation system for non-human primates with an option for voluntary engagement. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 269, 46-60.
Background: Head immobilisation is often necessary for neuroscientific procedures. A number of Non-invasive Head Immobilisation Systems (NHIS) for monkeys are available, but the need remains for a feasible integrated system combining a broad range of essential features. New Method: We developed an individualised macaque NHIS addressing several animal welfare and scientific needs. The system comprises a customised-to-fit facemask that can be used separately or combined with a back piece to form a full-head helmet. The system permits presentation of visual and auditory stimuli during immobilisation and provides mouth access for reward. Results: The facemask was incorporated into an automated voluntary training system, allowing the animals to engage with it for increasing periods leading to full head immobilisation. We evaluated the system during performance on several auditory or visual behavioural tasks with testing sessions lasting 1.5–2h, used thermal imaging to monitor for and prevent pressure points, and measured head movement using MRI. Comparison with existing methods: A comprehensive evaluation of the system is provided in relation to several scientific and animal welfare requirements. Behavioural Results: were often comparable to those obtained with surgical implants. Cost–benefit analyses were conducted comparing the system with surgical options, highlighting the benefits of implementing the non-invasive option. Conclusions: The system has a number of potential applications and could be an important tool in neuroscientific research, when direct access to the brain for neuronal recordings is not required, offering the opportunity to conduct non-invasive experiments while improving animal welfare and reducing reliance on surgically implanted head posts.