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MARGO (Massively Automated Real-time GUI for Object-tracking), a platform for high-throughput ethology

Fast object tracking in real time allows convenient tracking of very large numbers of animals and closed-loop experiments that control stimuli for many animals in parallel. We developed MARGO, a MATLAB-based, real-time animal tracking suite for custom behavioral experiments. We demonstrated that MARGO can rapidly and accurately track large numbers of animals in parallel over very long timescales, typically when spatially separated such as in multiwell plates. We incorporated control of peripheral hardware, and implemented a flexible software architecture for defining new experimental routines. These features enable closed-loop delivery of stimuli to many individuals simultaneously. We highlight MARGO’s ability to coordinate tracking and hardware control with two custom behavioral assays (measuring phototaxis and optomotor response) and one optogenetic operant conditioning assay. There are currently several open source animal trackers. MARGO’s strengths are 1) fast and accurate tracking, 2) high throughput, 3) an accessible interface and data output and 4) real-time closed-loop hardware control for for sensory and optogenetic stimuli, all of which are optimized for large-scale experiments.

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