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Motor patterns during active electrosensory acquisition

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00186

Keywords: electric fish, electrolocation, motor patterns, sensorimotor interaction, behavior, quantitative behavioral analysis, sensory flow

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Motor patterns displayed during active electrosensory acquisition of information seem to be an essential part of a sensory strategy by which weakly electric fish actively generate and shape sensory flow. These active sensing strategies are expected to adaptively optimize ongoing behavior with respect to either motor efficiency or sensory information gained. The tight link between the motor domain and sensory perception in active electrolocation make weakly electric fish like Gnathonemus petersii an ideal system for studying sensory-motor interactions in the form of active sensing strategies. Analyzing the movements and electric signals of solitary fish during unrestrained exploration of objects in the dark, we here present the first formal quantification of motor patterns used by fish during electrolocation. Based on a cluster analysis of the kinematic values we categorized the basic units of motion. These were then analyzed for their associative grouping to identify and extract short coherent chains of behavior. This enabled the description of sensory behavior on different levels of complexity: from single movements, over short behaviors to more complex behavioral sequences during which the kinematics alter between different behaviors. We present detailed data for three classified patterns and provide evidence that these can be considered as motor components of active sensing strategies. In accordance with the idea of active sensing strategies, we found categorical motor patterns to be modified by the sensory context. In addition these motor patterns were linked with changes in the temporal sampling in form of differing electric organ discharge frequencies and differing spatial distributions. The ability to detect such strategies quantitatively will allow future research to investigate the impact of such behaviors on sensing.


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