Knots: Attractive Places with High Path Tortuosity in Mouse Open Field Exploration
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When introduced into a novel environment, mammals establish in it a preferred place marked by the highest number of visits and highest cumulative time spent in it. Examination of exploratory behavior in reference to this "home base" highlights important features of its organization. It might therefore be fruitful to search for other types of marked places in mouse exploratory behavior and examine their influence on overall behavior.Examination of path curvatures of mice exploring a large empty arena revealed the presence of circumscribed locales marked by the performance of tortuous paths full of twists and turns. We term these places knots, and the behavior performed in them-knot-scribbling. There is typically no more than one knot per session; it has distinct boundaries and it is maintained both within and across sessions. Knots are mostly situated in the place of introduction into the arena, here away from walls. Knots are not characterized by the features of a home base, except for a high speed during inbound and a low speed during outbound paths. The establishment of knots is enhanced by injecting the mouse with saline and placing it in an exposed portion of the arena, suggesting that stress and the arousal associated with it consolidate a long-term contingency between a particular locale and knot-scribbling.In an environment devoid of proximal cues mice mark a locale associated with arousal by twisting and turning in it. This creates a self-generated, often centrally located landmark. The tortuosity of the path traced during the behavior implies almost concurrent multiple views of the environment. Knot-scribbling could therefore function as a way to obtain an overview of the entire environment, allowing re-calibration of the mouse's locale map and compass directions. The rich vestibular input generated by scribbling could improve the interpretation of the visual scene.
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