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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


Specification Dual Chamber
 Texture revolver

6 tiles (2 neutral, velcro, plastic film, course sandpaper, fine sandpaper, smooth cardboard, ridged cardboard, honeycomb plastic, aluminum foil)

 Stimulus lights

2 x 3mm, 6-color LEDs (WH/YE/BL/GN/RD/OG) (each wall)

 Nose pokes

2 x 12mm I.D. nose-pokes with aspiration (each wall)

 House light

1 x LED lamp for each cage side (220lux, white)

Test/Data Management via ANY-maze software (USB cable connection)
Power 12VDC, 2A external power supply input 85-264 VAC, 50-60Hz
Specification Olfactory
 10 channel odor emission (fragrances can be chosen by customer, usually are paraffin solubles)
 10 LEDs indicator of status, one red coloured per each channel
 10 master switch, one per each channel, allows the customer to manually shut one single channel
Specifications Air Management
 1 membrane pump capable of 2BAR generation
 1 vacum aspiration sistem, 4 channel (1 per each nosepoke of the dual chamber system)​
 2 knobs for manual regulation
 No tank needed
   Operon Odor Delivery System
 Dimensions  30x60x55(h)cm  57x27x45(h)cm
 Weight 15 Kg 15 Kg
 Shipping Weight 30 Kg 30 Kg
Packing 50x66x62(h)cm  

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 including double chamber cage with sliding partition with two operant walls including pellet delivery, two nose pokes for olfactive stimulation and scoring, led lights and tactile stimulation by revolving floor. The system is controlled by ANY-Maze conditioning (not included; order 60000-c) and is designed to work with a 10-channel olfactory stimulator and aspiration system (not included, order 49550-005 and 49550-010, for those using also olfactory stimulation).

49550-005 Air Control System for Odor Delivery. Universal input 85-264 VAC, 50-60Hz
49550-020 Olfactory Delivery System for OPERON, 10 independent channels, each driven by an electrovalve for up to 10 different scents (valve operation through Any-Maze)


ANY-Maze Software for Operon System

F. Zoratto, E. Pisa, C. Soldati, C. Barezzi, A. M. Ottomana, M. Presta, V. Santangelo, S. Macrì, 2023, “Automation at the service of the study of executive functions in preclinical models”, Scientific Reports

F. ScarsiD. ScheggiaF. Papaleo, 2020, "Automated Two-Chamber Operon ID/ED Task for Mice", Current Protocols


F. Zoratto, E. Pisa, M. Presta, S. Macrì, 2021, "Validation of an automated task to evaluate cognitive flexibility in mice", EBBS Conference (contact us for a copy of the Poster)

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