A lexical approach for identifying behavioural action sequences

Gautam Reddy, Laura Desban, Hidenori Tanaka, Julian Roussel, Olivier Mirat, Claire Wyart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Animals display characteristic behavioural patterns when performing a task, such as the spiraling of a soaring bird or the surge-and-cast of a male moth searching for a female. Identifying such recurring sequences occurring rarely in noisy behavioural data is key to understanding the behavioural response to a distributed stimulus in unrestrained animals. Existing models seek to describe the dynamics of behaviour or segment individual locomotor episodes rather than to identify the rare and transient sequences of locomotor episodes that make up the behavioural response. To fill this gap, we develop a lexical, hierarchical model of behaviour. We designed an unsupervised algorithm called "BASS"to efficiently identify and segment recurring behavioural action sequences transiently occurring in long behavioural recordings. When applied to navigating larval zebrafish, BASS extracts a dictionary of remarkably long, non-Markovian sequences consisting of repeats and mixtures of slow forward and turn bouts. Applied to a novel chemotaxis assay, BASS uncovers chemotactic strategies deployed by zebrafish to avoid aversive cues consisting of sequences of fast large-angle turns and burst swims. In a simulated dataset of soaring gliders climbing thermals, BASS finds the spiraling patterns characteristic of soaring behaviour. In both cases, BASS succeeds in identifying rare action sequences in the behaviour deployed by freely moving animals. BASS can be easily incorporated into the pipelines of existing behavioural analyses across diverse species, and even more broadly used as a generic algorithm for pattern recognition in low-dimensional sequential data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009672
JournalPLoS computational biology
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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