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A deep learning toolbox for automated analysis of animal and human behavior imaging data

DeepBehavior is a deep learning based toolbox for analysis of videos of behavior experiments in rodents and humans. We provide examples of implementation, and code for post-processing of the data. We show examples of five behavior tasks (food pellet reaching task, three-chamber test, social interaction of two mice; and reaching task and supination/pronation task in humans). We use three network models. Please find detailed explanation below.

3D kinematic analysis of reaching task in mice and humans.

Examples of social behavior analysis in mice (social interaction on the left, three chamber test on the right).

Getting Started

Which model should I use?


If you aim to detect only one type of object per image, then you can use Tensorbox. You can detect only one type of object per image, however, you can detect multiple of this same type of object in a single frame.


If you plan on detecting multiple types of objects per image, then you can use YOLOv3.


If you plan on performing 3D kinematic analysis on human movements, then Openpose is the model to use. The post-processing code is for developed for upper extremity movements.

Prerequisites and Installing

Please check each model's requirements and how to install them here:




Using the models (after installations)


First, create two folders (train and test) of images from the raw video files. FFMPEG can be used for this. To start with, we used ~600 images in train dataset and ~200 images in test dataset. Then, for each folder, run this command to label images in each folder one by one:


This creates a json file in the same directory as the folder.

Make the appropriate directory changes in the hypes file in the hypes directory. This is the hyper parameters file.

Then, start training with this command line:

python --hypes hypes/HYPESFILENAME.json --gpu 0 --logdir output

This creates files in the output folder with the trained weights under "save.ckpt-ITERATIONNUMBER".

Check the results by looking at the individual detected images using:


If satisfied, then the following command line can be used to obtain the coordinates of the bounding boxes and confidence scores:


The file "JSONFILENAME.json" includes the coordinates and confidence scores of bounding boxes for all of the individual frames in the video. This json file can be used in MATLAB for post-processing.


In MATLAB, please run the "Process_files_3Dreaching_mouse.m" script for 3D kinematic analysis of single food pellet reaching task.

Please run the "Process_three_chamber.m" script for three-chamber test.


First, create a folder that will include the training image dataset. We recommend starting with ~200 images.

Then, run this in the command line in the Yolo_mark directory:


This will open a GUI window where you can draw the bounding boxes on the region of interests, and do it for all the images in the folder. These should be the training dataset. Once this is completed, transfer the folder named "obj" (contains the images and the .txt files of labels), the files named "", "obj.names", "train.txt" to the data folder in the main darknet directory.

You can now start training with the following command:

./darknet detector train data/ cfg/yolo-obj.cfg darknet53.conv.74

You can train up to 200,000 iterations. The number of iterations may depend on the type of images, number of training dataset.

Once the training is completed, you can check the results on new images:

./darknet detector test data/ cfg/yolo-obj.cfg backup/yolo-obj_ITERATIONNUMBER.weights IMAGE.jpg

... and new videos:

./darknet detector demo data/ cfg/yolo-obj.cfg backup/yolo-obj_ITERATIONNUMBER.weights VIDEO.avi

To save the resulting video and the coordinates (in .txt file), please use this command:

./darknet detector demo data/ cfg/yolo-obj.cfg backup/yolo-obj_ITERATIONNUMBER.weights VIDEO.avi -ext_output <VIDEO.avi> FILENAME.txt


You can take the FILENAME.txt file to MATLAB, and run the "Process_socialtest_mini.m" script. This script was developed to detect two mice (as shown in the paper), however, it can be modified for other custom uses.


To obtain 3D kinematics, we use two camera stereo system. It is important that the cameras are synchronized to each other.

Then, we process videos obtained from each camera with openpose using the following command line:

./build/examples/openpose/openpose.bin --num_gpu 0 --video VIDEONAME.avi --net_resolution "1312x736" --scale_number 4 --scale_gap 0.25 --hand --hand_scale_number 6 --hand_scale_range 0.4 --write_json JSONFOLDERNAME --write_video RESULTINGVIDEONAME.avi

This creates indivudal json files for each frame in the video. So, it is important to keep it in one folder (JSONFOLDERNAME). We will later use these for post-processing and 3D analysis.

After obtaining the JSON files in two folders, we use MATLAB to calibrate the cameras and post-process the JSON files to obtain 3D positions. For camera calibration, you can use the calibration board file (this is a 7x10 checkerboard that has 115x115 mm squares when printed in 48"x36" size).


In MATLAB folder, please use 'process_files_human3D.m' script to run the code. This will create a "cell" file with all the 3D poses of the joints. It will also make a movie of the 3D skeletal view.

Additional required toolboxes

  • Matlab Camera Calibration Toolbox - Required for two-camera calibration in MATLAB
  • JSONlab - Required to read JSON files in MATLAB
  • Smoothn - Required for smoothing function in MATLAB
  • PIMS - This can be used to read '.seq' files in Python
  • FFMPEG - Useful toolbox for converting videos to images or vice versa.


  • Ahmet Arac

See also the list of contributors who participated in this project.


This project is licensed under the MIT License - see the file for details


  • We would like to thank the authors of the three network models (Tensorbox, YOLOv3, and Openpose) that we have used in this repository.


If you use our code, please cite:

  author = {Ahmet Arac and Pingping Zhao and Bruce H Dobkin and S Thomas Carmichael and Peyman Golshani},
  journal = {Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 2019 May 7;13:20},
  title = {DeepBehavior: A Deep Learning Toolbox for Automated Analysis of Animal and Human Behavior Imaging Data},
  year = {2019}

Here is a direct link to our paper:

DeepBehavior: A Deep Learning Toolbox for Automated Analysis of Animal and Human Behavior Imaging Data

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