An autonomous, automated and mobile device to concurrently assess several cognitive functions in group-living non-human primates

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Research methods in cognitive neuroscience using non-human primates have undergone notable changes over the last decades. Recently, several research groups have described freely accessible devices equipped with a touchscreen interface. Two characteristics of such systems are of particular interest: some apparatuses include automated identification of subjects, while others are mobile. Here, we designed, tested and validated an experimental system that, for the first time, combine automatization and mobility. Moreover, our system allows autonomous learning and testing of cognitive performance in group-living subjects, including follow-up assessments. The mobile apparatus is designed to be available 24 h a day, 7 days a week, in a typical confined primate breeding and housing facility. Here we present as proof of concept, the results of two pilot studies. We report that rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) learned the tasks rapidly and achieved high-level of stable performance. Approaches of this kind should be developed for future pharmacological and biomedical studies in non-human primates.

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