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Event Detail (Archived)

A Markovian Dynamics for C. elegans Behavior across Scales

Center for Studies in Physics and Biology Seminar Series

  • This event already took place in November 2023
  • Carson Family Auditorium (CRC)

Event Details

Special Seminar Series
Greg J. Stephens, Ph.D., associate professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Speaker bio(s)

How do we capture the breadth of behavior in animal movement, from rapid body twitches to aging? Using high-resolution videos of the nematode worm C. elegans, we show that a single dynamics connects posture-scale fluctuations with trajectory diffusion, and longer-lived behavioral states. We take short posture sequences as an instantaneous behavioral measure, fixing the sequence length for maximal prediction. Within the space of posture sequences we construct a fine-scale, maximum entropy partition so that transitions among microstates define a high-fidelity Markov model, which we also use as a means of principled coarse-graining. We translate these dynamics into movement using resistive force theory, capturing the statistical properties of foraging trajectories. Predictive across scales, we leverage the longest-lived eigenvectors of the inferred Markov chain to perform a top-down subdivision of the worm's foraging behavior, revealing both “runs-and-pirouettes” as well as previously uncharacterized finer-scale behaviors. We use our model to investigate the relevance of these fine-scale behaviors for foraging success, recovering a trade-off between local and global search strategies.

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