Making noise: emergent stochasticity in collective motion

J Theor Biol. 2010 Dec 7;267(3):292-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.08.034. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


Individual-based models of self-propelled particles (SPPs) are a popular and promising approach to explain features of the collective motion of animal aggregations. Many models that capture some features of group motion have been suggested but a common framework has yet to emerge. Key to all of these models is the inclusion of "noise" or stochastic errors in the individual behaviour of the SPPs. Here, we present a fully stochastic SPP model in one dimension that demonstrates a new way of introducing noise into SPP models whilst preserving emergent behaviours of previous models such as coherent groups and spontaneous direction switching. This purely individual-to-individual, local model is related to previous models in the literature and can easily be extended to higher dimensions. Its coarse-grained behaviour qualitatively reproduces recently reported locust movement data. We suggest that our approach offers an alternative to current reasoning about model construction and has the potential to offer mechanistic explanations for emergent properties of animal groups in nature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Grasshoppers / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stochastic Processes