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Licking behavior in rodents is widely used to determine fluid consumption in various behavioral contexts and is a typical example of rhythmic movement controlled by internal pattern-generating mechanisms. The measurement of licking behavior by commercially available instruments is based on either tongue protrusion interrupting a light beam or on an electrical signal generated by the tongue touching a metal spout. We report here that licking behavior can be measured with high temporal precision by simply connecting a metal sipper tube to the input of a standard analog/digital (A/D) converter and connecting the animal to ground (via a metal cage floor). The signal produced by a single lick consists of a 100-800 mV dc voltage step, which reflects the metal-to-water junction potential and persists for the duration of the tongue-spout contact. This method does not produce any significant electrical artifacts and can be combined with electrophysiological measurements of single unit activity from neurons involved in the control of the licking behavior.




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