Freedom of movement and the stability of its unfolding in free exploration of mice

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Exploration is a central component of human and animal behavior that has been studied in rodents for almost a century. The measures used by neuroscientists to characterize full-blown exploration are limited in exposing the dynamics of the exploratory process, leaving the morphogenesis of its structure and meaning hidden. By unfettering exploration from constraints imposed by hunger, thirst, coercion, and the confines of small cage and short session, using advanced computational tools, we reveal its meaning in the operational world of the mouse. Exploration consists of reiterated roundtrips of increasing amplitude and freedom, involving an increase in the number of independent dimensions along which the mouse moves (macro degrees of freedom). This measurable gradient can serve as a standard reference scale for the developmental dynamics of some aspects of the mouse's emotional-cognitive state and for the study of the interface between behavior and the neurophysiologic and genetic processes mediating it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21335-21340
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2009


  • Dimensionality emergence assay (DIEM assay)
  • Dynamics of exploration
  • Mouse open field behavior
  • Neophobia


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