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Low-Friction Rodent-Driven Belt Treadmill

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Laboratory Tools
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Low-Friction Rodent-Driven Belt Treadmill

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About the Innovation

The treadmill relatively small and inexpensive compared to most existing designs. It is manually driven with a single sensor to track the movement of the belt. Some of the users make use of this sensor, but it is not necessary for all. For the users that do not monitor the position or can use their own data acquisition systems, all that is needed are the parts documented in the zip file. Fundamentally, it can be used as a free turning manual treadmill.

It may be used for natural action (e.g., walking) for the mouse to take during an experiment instead of standing still. For example, some users let the mice walk normally on the treadmill and then play a tone the mouse associates with a trained response to see if the mouse will start or stop moving.

Advantages: There are no manual commercial options available, and manual exercise wheel-type treadmills don’t fit under microscopes very well. There are motorized belt-driven treadmills that are expensive and force the animal to move. 

Interface: These may be placed under an imaging microscope with a head-fixed rodent on it. There is an encoder that some users take advantage of. A simple version of the encoder (open access driver) is offered at Flintbox through the link at the upper right. 

Control: Users have plugged the encoder outputs directly into their lab data acquisition setups. 

Operation: Researchers can physically mount the treadmill and place the mouse on top of it. The encoder does not have to be turned on, but it does have to be connected to a data acquisition system or other devices if it is desired to record or analyze the motion.


Arnold, Jon (2023). Rodent Belt Treadmill. Janelia Research Campus. Physical object.


Free to make for Non-Profit Research at the link:

Rights and designs available for Commercial License by contacting innovation [at]

Licensed Commercial Source - Janelia makes no endorsements or guarantees of licensee products.

For inquiries, please reference:

Janelia 2017-049

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Michael Perham
Director, Innovations and External Relations
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