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Operon (for attentional set-shifting)

Product Code:49500/49503

Set-shifting task has proven to be an effective preclinical tool for drug testing and genetic screening, with direct translational valence in healthy humans and patients with schizophrenia.

The Ugo Basile Operon automatizes the Intra-/Extra-dimensional (ID/ED) attentional set-shifting battery of tests offering visual, olfactory and tactile stimulations, all controlled by software and coupled to a 10-channel unique odor delivery system.

The set-up includes 2 compartments divided by a sliding door, so that when the mouse is in one compartment (e.g. running a simple discrimination task), the other compartment automatically sets up all the components (lights, textures and odors) for the next task (e.g. compound discrimination), allowing for a fast and fully automated run of the experiment.

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Attentional set shifting is a measure of cognitive flexibility and executive functions widely assessed in humans by the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) and the CANTAB Intra-/Extra-Dimensional set-shifting task (ID/ED). The recently established automated two-chamber “Operon ID/ED” task for mice has

proved to be an effective preclinical tool for drug testing and genetic screening, with direct translational valence in healthy human subjects and patients with schizophrenia (Scarsi et al. 2020).

Fully automated attentional set-shifting

Ugo Basile made commercially available a fully automated version of the ID/ED task. This automated task allows one to study the ability of mice to shift attention through different rules, using two or three different dimensions (i.e. lights, odours, and textures). The Scarsi et al. paper provides a detailed step-by-step protocol for preparing and testing mice that includes all procedures required for this upgraded attentional set-shifting paradigm. A short manual for the use of the dedicated ANY-maze software and tools for adapting it to different needs are also provided. Overall, it is a comprehensive guideline for the use of this complex upgraded equipment and paradigm.

Moreover, see the application and additional resources of this web page for an example of the full protocol used by the Simone Macrì laboratory in Rome ISS (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) and a poster they presented at the EBBS conference in 2021.



3 dimensions: visual, tactile, odour, fully automated in protocol building and result acquisition

Can run in 2 or 3 dimension modes for maximum flexibility

2 identical chambers divided by a sliding door

The experimenter sets up the full series of tasks and then does not need to interfere with the experimental environment as it will continuously adjusting the stimuli, on the basis of the animal nose-poking performance

6 different textures where the mouse places its paw during nose-poking

Being rodents poorly visual animals, the automatically changing textures provide a robust dimension in addition to light and odour

Fully automated for both the experiment set up and the result view

The protocol can be flexibly changed and the results are shown as data, graphs, statistics or raw data

10-channel odour delivery with air delivery/suction system

Many different odours can be used, as they are injected and sucked back, so that only the nose poke area contains them, while the chamber stays odour-free

 Texture revolver

6 different tiles (each wall)

 Stimulus lights

2 x 3mm 6-color LEDs (each wall)

 Nose pokes

2 x 12mm (each wall)

 House light

1 x LED lamp 220 lux (each wall)

Cognitive flexibility involves the capacity to rapidly switch between different perspectives and implement novel strategies to cope with adverse situations or changed circumstances. Most tasks used to assess cognitive flexibility, in both humans and nonhuman animals, evaluate the individual capability to acquire a rule in order to obtain a reward and to subsequently disregard such rule in favor of a new one (mental set-shifting), once the learning criterion has been attained by trial and error. The Attentional Set-Shifting Task (ASST) is the rodent equivalent of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, a classical task commonly used to investigate cognitive flexibility in humans. The ASST is highly informative and has strong ethological validity. Yet, it presents some limitations whereby it is extremely labor intensive, not sufficiently standardized and potentially prone to experimental error and bias.

An automated version of this task has been developed to overcome these issues and, as shown in the EBBS poster mentioned in the references below, the validity of this newly devised, automated version of the ASST has been systematically assessed, by comparing it with the traditional, manual version in two popular mouse strains, C57BL/6 and CD1.

We also report the protocol used by the laboratory of Dr. Macrì, with the experiments run by Dr. Francesca Zoratto and Edoardo Pisa. See the additional information section of this web page for a pdf version of their protocol.

Operon System


Operon System

49550-005 Air Control System
49550-010 Olfactory Delivery System


ANY-Maze Software for Operon System

Francesca ScarsiDiego ScheggiaFrancesco Papaleo, 2020 Automated Two-Chamber Operon ID/ED Task for Mice", Current Protocols


Zoratto et al. 2021 EBBS Conference: “Validation of an automated task to evaluate cognitive flexibility in mice (contact us for a copy of the Poster)

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