Behavior Box

Behavior Box

Behavior boxes are often constructed from Acrylic sheets. Design your own custom box to fit your needs.

This isn’t a project so much as it is an general explanation (rambling) for constructing (and fixing!) your own operant/behavior boxes. These can be ordered through suppliers that specialize in behavior. But they are expensive, and typically don’t allow for customization. They can come air tight, but we can build that as well. If you have a break or leak in you box, don’t order a new one, simply fix it up.

Here’s what you’ll need: Box Parts

Be sure to wear eye protection for all steps, and gloves when using the acrylic cement.

Acrylic: Typically these boxes are made from clear acrylic sheets, about 1/4” thick (example: McMaster part 8560K358, currently $5.82). Thicker acrylic is harder to work with, so try to stay under 1/4”.

Cool idea: Nuñez, et al. 2017 used similar acrylic sheets as a filter for observing tdTomato. Could you build a behavior box and directly observe fluorescence?

Cut the acrylic to your specific dimensions: leave the paper covering on until you are ready to assemble. This helps prevent scratching. Lay the acrylic on a nice flat surface and measure out where you want to cut. Then use some straight edge (like a ruler) to guide a razor along a straight line, creating a score line (FTW!). Repeat this several times. Place the score line above the corner of a table. Break the part with a solid, forceful smack down. Repeat for all other parts. A drill can be used to cut holes, but use a high speed and don’t apply too much pressure or the brittle acrylic will crack. For complex shapes, a table saw can cut this as well, but this creates a rough edge.

The edges must be clean and smooth. This is because the edges can be joined with SciGrip 3, a water thin ‘cement’. This cement isn’t what you’d consider as a typical adhesive (or a cement for that matter!). It is more like a weld. It melts the plastic parts and dries, thereby creating one part. So clean up edges with sanding. Fit the parts together and hold them with clamps. Carefully open the cement (there is a tricky top on it, simply puncture through it with a screwdriver and pop it off (¡eyeprotection!)). The cement can be applied to the edges with a paint brush or a syringe. The cement will naturally be drawn into the joint. Work fast and don’t allow air bubbles in. A good joint will be clear and will not have any voids. It will set within 2 min, and reach 80% strength in 24 hr.

ONE Core acknowledgement

Please acknowledge the ONE Core facility in your publications. An appropriate wording would be:

“The Optogenetics and Neural Engineering (ONE) Core at the University of Colorado School of Medicine provided engineering support for this research. The ONE Core is part of the NeuroTechnology Center, funded in part by the School of Medicine and by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under award number P30NS048154.”