Automatic Behavior Recognition

The behavioral testing of rodent models is a very important part of neuroscientific research. While variables such as velocity and time spent in an area of interest have been known to be detected consistently and reliably with EthoVision XT, until recently, more detailed data on specific behavioral events (such as grooming) required additional human observation. This traditional method has its downfalls, and automation in behavioral recognition is a crucial step towards advancements in biomedical, genetic, and molecular research. That is why Noldus developed Rat and Mouse Behavior Recognition for EthoVision XT.    

Learn about the behaviors recognized for mice here

Learn about the behaviors recognized for rats here

See the Rat Behavior Recognition software in action!

Why use automated behavior recognition?

The last couple of years have brought many advances in video tracking software. Variables such as distance moved, speed of movement, path shape, zone visits, and body elongation are now automatically recognized. In many cases, these variables are detected more easily or accurately by computers than by human observation. However, recognition of more complex behaviors (such as grooming and sniffing) is still mostly done by humans. This is labor intensive and subject to individual interpretation.  

High accuracy

Rat Behavior Recognition and Mouse Behavior Recognition from EthoVision XT are unique behavioral recognition software modules. Validation studies have shown that it is as accurate as human observation – both can reach an accuracy of about 70%, but the software is more consistent and tireless (van Dam et al., 2013 for Rat Behavior Recognition). Human observation is subjective and a human will never make the exact same observation twice. Automatic Behavior Recognition is consistent: it scores the same way, every time, all the time. 

Behavior recognition is based on several factors. These include the location and movement of the nose point, center point, and tail base of the animal; its body shape and contour; and information about the cage in which testing takes place (such as where the walls, the feeder, and the drinking bottle are located). Motion statistics, intensity, and periodicity are also taken into account.   

Tireless observations

Of course, as humans we can become tired and lose focus. A trained expert can score for about 2 hours before he loses concentration. Rodents are fast-moving animals, so depending on which behaviors you are interested in, scoring 5 minutes of video can take up to an hour! Automatic Behavior Recognition is tireless, making long-term observation a lot more efficient. 

rat behavior recognition groom
One great advantage of automatic behavior recognition is its tirelessness.
rat behavior recognition rear wall
It is also accurate and does not require hand-labeled lists or specific training.

A practical solution

Hand-labeled lists of behaviors take many hours to compile. Costly in time and money, they are often essential for starting any behavioral study. The Rat and Mouse Behavior Recognition modules do not require these lists. They can be used without any previous training, in different set-ups (open field, home cage, etc.), and with different strains of rats or mice. Additionally, they work with a practical top-view camera position.  

Learn about the behaviors recognized for mice here

Learn about the behaviors recognized for rats here

Additional automatically recognized behaviors

In addition to the ten behaviors included in the software, you can also order custom-tailored Behavior Recognition software which automatically detects exactly those behaviors of rats or mice you are interested in. This is a consultancy service; please contact us for more information.  

Read more about the development of Rat Behavior Recognition in this blog post

Rat Behavior Recognition and Mouse Behavior Recognition are optional modules for EthoVision XT. Read about all the modules here.