Quantifying behavior to solve sensorimotor transformations: advances from worms and flies

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 Oct;46:90-98. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2017.08.006. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


The development of new computational tools has recently opened up the study of natural behaviors at a precision that was previously unachievable. These tools permit a highly quantitative analysis of behavioral dynamics at timescales that are well matched to the timescales of neural activity. Here we examine how combining these methods with established techniques for estimating an animal's sensory experience presents exciting new opportunities for dissecting the sensorimotor transformations performed by the nervous system. We focus this review primarily on examples from Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster-for these model systems, computational approaches to characterize behavior, in combination with unparalleled genetic tools for neural activation, silencing, and recording, have already proven instrumental for illuminating underlying neural mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Models, Animal*
  • Models, Neurological*