In an unexpected mashup of financial and mechanical engineering, researchers have discovered that the same modeling used to forecast fluctuations in the stock market can be used to predict aspects of animal behavior. Their work proposes an unprecedented model for in silico—or computer-based—simulations of animal behavior. The findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The team, led by Maurizio Porfiri, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the school’s Dynamical Systems Laboratory, is more accustomed to studying the social behavior of zebrafish—a freshwater species often used in experiments due to its genetic similarity to humans. Porfiri has drawn considerable attention for his interdisciplinary research on the factors that influence zebrafish collective behavior.
However, designing procedures and conditions for animal experiments are time-intensive, and despite careful planning, many experiments yield mixed data. Porfiri and his team, comprising postdoctoral fellow Ross P. Anderson, doctoral student Violet Mwaffo, and former postdoctoral fellow Sachit Butail (now assistant professor at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi), set out to develop a mathematical model of animal behavior that could predict the outcome or improve the effectiveness of experiments and minimize the number of fish used in them.
When mapping the movement of zebrafish as they swam, Porfiri and his colleagues observed that the species does not move in a continuous pattern; rather, it swims in a signature style characterized by coasting periods followed by sharp turns. As they plotted the turn rate of the fish over time, the researchers noticed that their data, with its small variations followed by large dips (reflecting fast turns), looked very different from the turn rate of other fish but very similar to another type of data, where such volatility is not only common but well studied: the stock market.
The team embraced the mathematical model known as a stochastic jump process, a term used by financial engineers and economists to describe the price jumps of financial assets over time. Using many of the same tools employed in financial analysis, the researchers were able to create a mathematical model of zebrafish swimming, mining video footage from previous experimental sessions to seed what they hope will become a robust database of zebrafish behavior under varying circumstances.
“We realized that if we could simulate the swimming behavior of these fish using a computer, we could test and predict their responses to new stimuli, whether that is the introduction or removal of a shoal mate, the presence of a robotic fish, or even exposure to alcohol,” Porfiri said. “In behavior studies, you can easily utilize thousands of test subjects to explore different variables. This will allow researchers to replace some of that experimentation with computer modeling.”
Porfiri emphasized that this mathematical model of animal behavior will also allow researchers to make better use of their data following experiments, not just beforehand. “The data that result from zebrafish experiments look quite messy initially,” Porfiri said. “Giving researchers a model they can use to compare, filter, and refine their analysis afterwards will allow them to maximize data for better results.”
Porfiri and his team plan to continue to add data to their model with the hope of creating a toolbox that all researchers engaged in this field of study can utilize.
The idea of incorporating financial engineering to model zebrafish behavior came from Mwaffo, now a doctoral student in Porfiri’s lab who had earned his master’s degree in financial engineering from the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.
This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation. The full paper, “A Jump Persistent Turning Walker to Model Zebrafish Locomotion” is here.
Learn more about: Maurizio Porfiri
Kathleen Hamilton | EurekAlert!
How Strong Brands Translate into Money
15.11.2016 | Kühne Logistics University - Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Logistik und Unternehmensführung
Demographic change depresses tax revenues
04.11.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences