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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 16;8(10):e76257. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076257. eCollection 2013.

The angular interval between the direction of progression and body orientation in normal, alcohol- and cocaine treated fruit flies.

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Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel ; Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


In this study we characterize the coordination between the direction a fruit-fly walks and the direction it faces, as well as offer a methodology for isolating and validating key variables with which we phenotype fly locomotor behavior. Our fundamental finding is that the angular interval between the direction a fly walks and the direction it faces is actively managed in intact animals and modulated in a patterned way with drugs. This interval is small in intact flies, larger with alcohol and much larger with cocaine. The dynamics of this interval generates six coordinative modes that flow smoothly into each other. Under alcohol and much more so under cocaine, straight path modes dwindle and modes involving rotation proliferate. To obtain these results we perform high content analysis of video-tracked open field locomotor behavior. Presently there is a gap between the quality of descriptions of insect behaviors that unfold in circumscribed situations, and descriptions that unfold in extended time and space. While the first describe the coordination between low-level kinematic variables, the second quantify cumulative measures and subjectively defined behavior patterns. Here we reduce this gap by phenotyping extended locomotor behavior in terms of the coordination between low-level kinematic variables, which we quantify, combining into a single field two disparate fields, that of high content phenotyping and that of locomotor coordination. This will allow the study of the genes/brain/locomotor coordination interface in genetically engineered and pharmacologically manipulated animal models of human diseases.

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