During exploration of a new environment, mice establish "knots" – preferred places visited sporadically and marked by the performance of twists and turns, according to a new study by Israel and Canada-based researchers. The research provides evidence that the formation of these places is increased by stress, and suggests that the tortuous movements improve the interpretation of the visual scene, enhance the memory of the place and provide the mouse with multiple views that turn the established places into navigational landmarks. Details are published January 15 in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.
The notion of "a place" and an "itinerary" is taken for granted in everyday life but how these abstract ideas are created is a subject of much discussion and research. Using advanced computational tools the authors show how a particular type of place (knot) is formed and then used by mice. The knots, and other preferred places discovered earlier, contribute to our understanding of how the animals map the environment, and what they try to accomplish.
In an empty arena devoid of proximal cues, the rich perceptual inputs generated by the twisting and turning could improve the mouse's view of the environment and more generally enhance or even embody for the mouse the memory and significance of this place by tagging it with a place-specific perceptual signature, say the authors.
Exploration is a central component of human and animal behavior that has been studied in rodents for almost a century. It is presently one of the main models for studying the interface between behavior, genetics, drugs, and the brain. Until recently, rodents' exploration of an open field has been considered to be largely random. Lately, this behavior is being gradually deciphered, revealing reference places established and used by the animals for navigation.
Portrayal of how behavior is structured within and around knots in normal animals can later be used to study how this behavior is affected by pharmacological and genetic manipulations.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: This study was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF, number 915/05) to IG, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN A0544) to HS. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
COMPETING INTERESTS: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000638 (link will go live upon embargo lift)
CITATION: Dvorkin A, Szechtman H, Golani I (2010) Knots: Attractive Places with High Path Tortuosity in Mouse Open Field Exploration. PLoS Comput Biol 6(1): e1000638. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000638
Anna Dvorkin, PhD
Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences
1200 Main Street West
Hamilton, ON L8N 3Z5
Phone: 1-905-5259140, ext. 27218
Ilan Golani, PhD
Department of Zoology
Faculty of Life Sciences
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978
Phone (office): 972-3-6409391
Phone (home): 972-3-5732511
This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Computational Biology. The release is provided by the article authors. Any opinions expressed in this release or article are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.
About PLoS Computational Biology
PLoS Computational Biology (www.ploscompbiol.org) features works of exceptional significance that further our understanding of living systems at all scales through the application of computational methods. All works published in PLoS Computational Biology are open access. Everything is immediately available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.
About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.