Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

When fish swim in the holodeck

22.08.2017

Virtual worlds allow new experimental designs for the study of brain function

From behavior to brain function


Virtual reality arena for flies.

(Copyright: https://strawlab.org/freemovr)

A person sees another person and depending on the context very different interactions can take place. The final outcome after the initial visual experience is a result of complex interactions of neurons in different brain regions- processes that are still very little understood.

To study the neuronal basis underlying behavior, scientists have developed a broad range of techniques, most of which require either the partial or full immobilization of the animal. This restricts sensory input and feedback and ultimately changes the neuronal and behavioral responses. In addition, mimicking natural conditions in a laboratory is difficult.

A three-dimensional, reactive, computer-controlled world for moving animals

The groups of Andrew Straw at the University of Freiburg (a former IMP fellow) and Kristin Tessmar-Raible at the MFPL have now presented a system called "FreemoVR" in Nature Methods, that overcomes most of these hurdles by immersing a freely-moving animal in a reactive, three-dimensional world controlled by a computer.

FreemoVR enables the experimenter to control the animal's visual experience, while maintaining the natural feedback for its tactile senses. To do so, the scientists built behavioral arenas whose walls or floors were computer displays, including arbitrarily shaped projection surfaces. Using computer games technology, the animal could then explore the VR environment in these arenas from its own perspective while it walked, flew or swam.

"We wanted to create a holodeck for animals so that they would experience a reactive, immersive environment under computer control so that we could perform experiments that would reveal how they see objects, the environment, and other animals," says Andrew Straw, leading in the development of FreemoVR.

Applications of FreemoVR in fish, flies and mice

To validate FreemoVR's ability to elicit naturalistic object responses, the researchers investigated the reaction of freely swimming zebrafish and freely flying flies to a virtual upright post and tested freely walking mice, which showed to be equally afraid of heights in a real and virtual elevated maze.

Using FreemoVR, the teams found previously unnoticed behavioral differences between a wildtype and a mutant zebrafish strain, showing the sensitivity of the system. The scientists further explored the rules that govern social interactions of real zebrafish with virtual ones and found that the prospective leader fish minimizes the risk of losing followers by balancing his internal preference for a swimming direction with the social responsiveness of the subordinate fish.

Future directions

Studying and manipulating behavior in less complex organisms like fish or flies, but also more complex ones like mice and even humans is a popular way among neuroscientists to deduce information about brain function. "I am particularly excited about the possibility to mimic more complex, naturalistic environments and to test more advanced brain functions in medaka and zebrafish. It will help us to better understand brain functions and to what extent we can use these diurnal vertebrates as models for neuropsychological malfunctions", says MFPL scientist Kristin Tessmar-Raible, who led most of the fish work.

In the future, the different teams hope to use FreemoVR to gain insights into brain function of high-level behaviors like navigation, to better understand causality in collective behavior of social groups and, in the long run, to study the mechanisms of behavior under conditions in which the brain evolved to operate.

###

Publication in Nature Methods: John R Stowers, Maximilian Hofbauer, Renaud Bastien, Johannes Griessner, Peter Higgins, Sarfarazhussain Farooqui, Ruth M Fischer, Karin Nowikovsky, Wulf Haubensak, Iain D Couzin, Kristin Tessmar-Raible, Andrew D Straw. Virtual reality for freely moving animals. Nature Methods, DOI:10.1038/nmeth.4399

Media Contact

Kristin Teßmar-Raible
kristin.tessmar-raible@univie.ac.at
43-142-777-4635

 @univienna

http://www.univie.ac.at/en/ 

Kristin Teßmar-Raible | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Zebrafish brain function social interactions swimming

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Elusive compounds of greenhouse gas isolated by Warwick chemists
18.09.2019 | University of Warwick

nachricht Study gives clues to the origin of Huntington's disease, and a new way to find drugs
18.09.2019 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stroke patients relearning how to walk with peculiar shoe

18.09.2019 | Innovative Products

Statistical inference to mimic the operating manner of highly-experienced crystallographer

18.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists' design discovery doubles conductivity of indium oxide transparent coatings

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>