Automated Tracking of Animal Posture and Movement during Exploration and Sensory Orientation Behaviors

A. Gomez-Marin, N. Partoune, G.J. Stephens, M. Louis

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Abstract

Background: The nervous functions of an organism are primarily reflected in the behavior it is capable of. Measuring behavior quantitatively, at high-resolution and in an automated fashion provides valuable information about the underlying neural circuit computation. Accordingly, computer-vision applications for animal tracking are becoming a key complementary toolkit to genetic, molecular and electrophysiological characterization in systems neuroscience. Methodology/Principal Findings: We present Sensory Orientation Software (SOS) to measure behavior and infer sensory experience correlates. SOS is a simple and versatile system to track body posture and motion of single animals in two-dimensional environments. In the presence of a sensory landscape, tracking the trajectory of the animal's sensors and its postural evolution provides a quantitative framework to study sensorimotor integration. To illustrate the utility of SOS, we examine the orientation behavior of fruit fly larvae in response to odor, temperature and light gradients. We show that SOS is suitable to carry out high-resolution behavioral tracking for a wide range of organisms including flatworms, fishes and mice. Conclusions/Significance: Our work contributes to the growing repertoire of behavioral analysis tools for collecting rich and fine-grained data to draw and test hypothesis about the functioning of the nervous system. By providing open-access to our code and documenting the software design, we aim to encourage the adaptation of SOS by a wide community of non-specialists to their particular model organism and questions of interest. © 2012 Gomez-Marin et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41642
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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