Stamps, M.T., Go, S. & Mathuru, A.S. Computational geometric tools for quantitative comparison of locomotory behavior. Sci Rep 9, 16585 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-52300-8
A fundamental challenge for behavioral neuroscientists is to accurately quantify (dis)similarities in animal behavior without excluding inherent variability present between individuals. We explored two new applications of curve and shape alignment techniques to address this issue. As a proof-of-concept we applied these methods to compare normal or alarmed behavior in pairs of medaka (Oryzias latipes). The curve alignment method we call Behavioral Distortion Distance (BDD) revealed that alarmed fish display less predictable swimming over time, even if individuals incorporate the same action patterns like immobility, sudden changes in swimming trajectory, or changing their position in the water column. The Conformal Spatiotemporal Distance (CSD) technique on the other hand revealed that, in spite of the unpredictability, alarmed individuals exhibit lower variability in overall swim patterns, possibly accounting for the widely held notion of “stereotypy” in alarm responses. More generally, we propose that these new applications of established computational geometric techniques are useful in combination to represent, compare, and quantify complex behaviors consisting of common action patterns that differ in duration, sequence, or frequency.
This work was supported by Yale-NUS College through grants R-607-265-225-121 and IG16-LR003. The authors acknowledge the support from Haroun Chahed, Goh Rui Zhe and Maharshee Karia in the initial stages of the project.