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Computer-based video analysis boosts data gathering in behavioral studies
Date:9/7/2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] For decades, carefully logging data about how mice go through the motions of their daily routines has been a tedious staple of behavioral and neuroscience research:

  • Hour 2, minute 27: mouse 4 is sleeping;
  • Hour 3, minute 12: mouse 7 is eating;

and so on. It's a task most people would happily cede to automation. Now, says Thomas Serre, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University, that's finally possible.

In a paper to be published online Sept. 7, 2010, in the journal Nature Communications, Serre and a team of colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology describe a new computer system that is as accurate as people in identifying mouse behaviors in videos. What's more, the team is making the fully customizable open-source software available for free. Given standard camcorder footage of a mouse, the software will automatically identify a mouse's behavior frame by frame.

"We measured the agreement [on mouse behaviors] between any two human observers and it was more than 70 percent," said Serre, who joined the Brown faculty in January 2010 after conducting his doctoral and postdoctoral studies, including the work described in the paper, at MIT. "The system agreed with humans at the same level. There was no significant difference between the annotations provided by our system and any two human observers."

The value of the software is not only that it could relieve graduate students and lab technicians from some boredom. It takes about 25 person-hours to fully annotate an hour of mouse movies. In a small experiment with 10 mice who are each observed for 5 hours, that's 1,250 person-hours of work. Because it is computerized, the system might also provide less subjective annotations than a human team would and could therefore be less susceptible to bias.


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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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