The Project Manager keeps track of complex trial sequences for up to 100 animals at a time. The sequence of trials, including different starting positions, maximum trial durations and platform locations, can be specified independently for each animal. Or set up the sequence for one animal and easily copy its sequence to other animals. The program can be set such that each animal gets all its daily trials together before the next animal is run, or with all animals being trained on one trial before they are moved on to the next.
No matter how complex the experiment is, the Project Manager keeps track and tells the user at the start of each day how many trials are to be run for each animal. Then, through the course of a day’s experiment, the program prompts the user for each animal in turn, showing on the live video image where the platform should be placed and where the animal should be released. The user is free to concentrate on animal behavior, not on animal bookkeeping. If necessary, preset sequences can be overridden and trials performed in any user-specified order. At the end of each trial, data are saved in prenamed files automatically. Problem animals can be removed from the project at any time with the click of a button. Or animals that have reached a learning criterion can be tagged and the program will automatically remove them from further training.
For all its flexibility, WaterMaze is easy to use. Because we are WaterMaze users as well as designers, we have built the features to match the daily routine of running experiments. Controls and menus are placed in logical and intuitive arrangements, so that even a complex protocol can be set up in a few minutes. Online Help windows are provided throughout the program.