Controlled Access Lickometry

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I've gotten a lot of strange spam over the years, but this one wins some sort of prize:

Now you can control when the subject will have the opportunity to respond on a nose poke with the new Controlled Access Nose Poke Response Operandum. Like the Controlled Access Lickometers, a guillotine door prevents entry into the Nose Poke when closed and provides access to the Nose Poke when opened.

The photocell response sensor is included with the Controlled Access Nose Poke. A 3-position switch on the back panel of the unit provides settings for selecting a continuous output signal for the duration of the beam break or a short pulse at the onset of the beam break as well as introducing a delay in the response report. A stimulus light, located on the back wall inside the nose poke hole, is included.

"Controlled Access Lickometers"? Before your fantasies run too far astray, I should add the ordering information: "P/N H21-09M-CA for mice and H21-09R-CA for rats". Google Scholar searches for "lickometer" and "nose poke" confirm the association with rodent-behavior experimentation.

Other products on the company's web site include a "Video-Based Conditioned Fear System" ("FreezeFrame has become the standard in the field for automated fear conditioning. It combines the sensitivity of the human observer with the objectivity and high throughput of automation."), the "Big Brother Video Tracking" system, and the "Nautilus WaterMaze Platform".

The discussion of the WaterMaze system includes a rather poetic flurry of jargon: "Parameters include thigmotaxis, Moser's zones, Whishaw's corridor, Gallagher's proximity, quadrant times and crossings and more". For some reason this reminded me of Jay Lake's Flowers books, which I've recently read.

The only remaining mystery is how I got on Coulbourn's mailing list. The bottom of the email says "You are receiving this email because as a Coulbourn customer you asked for updates and information about us." I'm not and I didn't, actually. But I'll return the favor — since as a Language Log reader you asked me to check your advertising copy, I'll point out that when you write that WaterMaze was "designed in collaboration with Richard Morris (University of Edinborough)", you've spelled Edinburgh (where Richard Morris is Director of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems) wrong.


  1. Rick said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 12:53 pm


    [(myl) Moser's zones; Whishaw's corridor; Gallagher's proximity; …]

  2. David L said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    I am alarmed by the idea of controlling nose poke access by means of a guillotine…

  3. Dan T. said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    You don't want your nose chopped off?

  4. Jay Lake said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    :: laughing ::

    I hope you enjoyed the books…

  5. Bobbie said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

    Sounds like something used in experiments with small animals… Rats poking after a stimulus, perhaps?

  6. Freddy Hill said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    Most technical language is dry as the sands of the Sahara, but this specialty seems wonderfully suggestive. I only regret that it may be too late for me to become a Doctor in Lickometry. The pick up lines alone would be worth it: "Hey, baby, you may think that this is a pack of Marlboroughs, but it is actually a Nose Poke Response Operandum. Here, let me show you how it works…"

    On second thought…

  7. Dan Lufkin said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    I once got a postcard that said "French Lick, Indiana, isn't nearly as interesting as it sounds."

  8. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    The real question is, is Lickometer pronounced with an aspirated or unaspirated /k/?

  9. Alan Gunn said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    "I once got a postcard that said "French Lick, Indiana, isn't nearly as interesting as it sounds.""

    The one I've heard is "Indiana place names are odd. South Bend is in the north, East Chicago is in the west, and French Lick doesn't mean what you're thinking."

  10. richard howland-bolton said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

    Not to be confused with thigmotropism?

  11. Q. Pheevr said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    I'm also sort of amused by they way they say that the door "prevents entry […] when closed and provides access […] when opened." Yup, that's what doors do, all right.

    [(myl) Yes, this is sort of a high-tech version of Heidi Harley's CD holder, which "automatically becomes portable when carried"; or the same company's camera case, which "holds all digital cameras small enough to fit".]

  12. cameron said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

    I find it strange that per the online reference cited above, the adjective form of "thigmotaxis" is "thigmotastic". Shouldn't it be "thigmotactic"?

    Quick google seach confirms that it should be; that site is the only hit for "thigmotastic", and there are some 47,000 hits for "thigmotactic".

  13. Rubrick said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    I intend to go forth and misuse "thigmotastic" with gusto.

  14. Tom said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

    Thanks for the correction of thigmotastic to thigmotactic. I have fixed my post. It's always nice to stand out as 1 out of 47,000, but I suppose making up a word probably isn't the best way to do that. But if anyone wants to use thigmotastic, with gusto or without, I hereby release it to the public domain.

  15. Joe Fineman said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    Room 101 for the rats!

  16. Nanani said,

    June 24, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

    This thread is thigmotastic!

  17. Barrett said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 7:08 am

    @Joe Fineman

    A cage full of Winstons?

  18. [links] Link salad reaches for its Maker hooks | said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 8:00 am

    […] Controlled Access Lickometry — Language Log compares me to tech spam. :: laughing :: (Via @LeviMontgomery.) […]

  19. Bill Benzon said,

    June 27, 2010 @ 3:49 am

    Is this not standard technology for determining progress up the corporate ladder? I believe the US Congress also uses it to mold the behavior of lobbyists.

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