Systems Neuroscience of Natural Behaviors in Rodents

Emily Dennis, Ahmed El Hady, Angie Michaiel, Ann Clemens, Dougal Tervo, Jakob Voigts, Sandeep Datta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Animals evolved in complex environments, producing a wide range of behaviors, including navigation, foraging, prey capture, and conspecific interactions, which vary over timescales ranging from milliseconds to days. Historically, these behaviors have been the focus of study for ecology and ethology, while systems neuroscience has largely focused on short timescale behaviors that can be repeated thousands of times and occur in highly artificial environments. Thanks to recent advances in machine learning, miniaturization, and computation, it is newly possible to study freely moving animals in more natural conditions while applying systems techniques: performing temporally specific perturbations, modeling behavioral strategies, and recording from large numbers of neurons while animals are freely moving. The authors of this review are a group of scientists with deep appreciation for the common aims of systems neuroscience, ecology, and ethology. We believe it is an extremely exciting time to be a neuroscientist, as we have an opportunity to grow as a field, to embrace interdisciplinary, open, collaborative research to provide new insights and allow researchers to link knowledge across disciplines, species, and scales. Here we discuss the origins of ethology, ecology, and systems neuroscience in the context of our own work and highlight how combining approaches across these fields has provided fresh insights into our research. We hope this review facilitates some of these interactions and alliances and helps us all do even better science, together.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911
Number of pages919
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2021


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