Bernhard Englitz
Bernhard Englitz

NWO Open Technology funding for LiveScope

The LiveScope project, led by Bernhard Englitz and co-applicant Judith Homberg, was awarded a NWO Open Technology Programme grant of €850k. LiveScope is a first-of-its-kind audiovisual tracking system for rodents with breakthrough spatial accuracy. It will assess animal well-being in social interactions and contribute to the improvement of animal experiments in particular for neurodevelopmental disorders.

LiveScope will provide a live tracking-system that can automatically detect and follow rodents in a video stream and also localise the origin of vocalisations, and assign them to the emitting animal. This will use recently developed technology at the Donders Center for Neuroscience at the Radboud University. Further, the system will be able to estimate the body pose of the animals, and combined with their vocalisation properties, assess the wellbeing of individual animals. The system will be built on a performant machine-learning pipeline, which runs on a single computer and will be easy to set up and use. 

To improve animal wellbeing and quality of experiments

In collaboration with company partners, LiveScope plans to develop a widely adopted method to automatically assess the wellbeing of rodents in experiments and animal housings and thus contribute to the improvement of animal wellbeing and the quality of experiments in the field of neurodevelopmental diseases. 

The project contains three experiments, Englitz explains: “We will conduct three behavioural experiments with mice and rats, which will deliver training data for LiveScope under different experimental conditions. These experiments will also serve to validate the capabilities of the system. We will for example work with mice that are a well-known model system for autism spectrum disorder, which are known to have different social behaviour. Finally, the system will be validated externally at Charles River Laboratories and at the KU Leuven.”

The overarching goal is to leverage recent advances in machine learning to advance the accuracy of behavioural experiments and the well-being of animals in research. Englitz hopes that the system will find wide adoption, in particular in a miniaturised version that will be used inside standardised animal housings. 

The project is expected to start in November 2024 and will take six years. From the Donders Institute the project involves co-applicant Judith Homberg. Company partners providing in-kind contributions are Noldus IT, BrainBuilders, Charles River Laboratories, CAE Software and Systems. Markus Wöhr, from KU Leuven is a scientific partner for this project.

Open Technology Programme NWO

The Open Technology Programme provides funding for application-oriented technical-scientific research that is free and unrestricted and is not hindered by disciplinary boundaries. The programme offers companies and other organisations an accessible way to participate in scientific research that is intended to lead to societal and/or scientific impact. Read the full press release.