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RATLAND Report Summary

Project ID: 340063
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Israel

Mid-Term Report Summary - RATLAND (Understanding Auditory Information Processing in Naturalistic Environments)

Project RATLAND is an attempt to study the behavior of rats in a complex environment in the context of theoretical models of the full perception-action loop. It integrates sophisticated experimental and theoretical approaches into a single project which attempts to break the limited experimental control that is available today when studying brain control of behavior.
The major component of the project is the RIFF, a rich behavioral arena which is fully under computer control, highly configurable, and which can interact with the animals using sounds to provide information about the expected behavior of the environment in response to animal actions. The RIFF is currently operational, and preliminary behavioral experiments are already running in it.
Electrophysiological signals are currently collected by a telemetry system, making it possible to free the rats from any constraint so that they can behave as naturally as possible. A first project, recording responses in awake, non-behaving animals, has been completed and is prepared for publication.
Behavior will be analyzed in the context of information-limited dynamical systems. A first, simple test case has been by now analyzed in details, and shown to lead to interesting insight into a simple learning process, that of mice swimming in the Morris Water Maze. Similar theoretical treatment of the RIFF is harder and will be performed in the 2nd part of the project.
In the second half of the project, we will integrate all the separate components we developed over the first period of the project in order to address the main question underlying the project - that of the relationships between brain signals and behavior in complex environment - while keeping experimental control as tight as possible.

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