Vision Guides Selection of Freeze or Flight Defense Strategies in Mice

Curr Biol. 2016 Aug 22;26(16):2150-4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.06.006. Epub 2016 Aug 4.


In prey species such as mice, avoidance of predators is key to survival and drives instinctual behaviors like freeze or flight [1, 2]. Sensory signals guide the selection of appropriate behavior [3], and for aerial predators only vision provides useful information. Surprisingly, there is no evidence that vision can guide the selection of escape strategies. Fleeing behavior can be readily triggered by a rapidly looming overhead stimulus [4]. Freezing behavior, however, has previously been induced by real predators or their odors [5]. Here, we discover that a small moving disk, simulating the sweep of a predator cruising overhead, is sufficient to induce freezing response in mice. Looming and sweeping therefore provide visual triggers for opposing flight and freeze behaviors and provide evidence that mice innately make behavioral choices based on vision alone. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Keywords: innate behavior; mouse; predator and prey; visual pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Escape Reaction*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Perception*