Movement characteristics support a role for dead reckoning in organizing exploratory behavior

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Rat exploration is an organized series of trips. Each exploratory trip involves an outward tour from the refuge followed by a return to the refuge. A tour consists of a sequence of progressions with variable direction and speed concatenated by stops, whereas the return consists of a single direct progression. We have argued that processing self-movement information generated on the tour allows a rat to plot the return to the refuge. This claim has been supported by observing consistent differences between tour and return segments independent of ambient cue availability; however, this distinction was based on differences in movement characteristics derived from multiple progressions and stops on the tour and the single progression on the return. The present study examines movement characteristics of the tour and return progressions under novel-dark and light conditions. Three novel characteristics of progressions were identified: (1) linear speeds and path curvature of exploratory trips are negatively correlated, (2) tour progression maximum linear speed and temporal pacing varies as a function of travel distance, and (3) return progression movement characteristics are qualitatively different from tour progressions of comparable length. These observations support a role for dead reckoning in organizing exploratory behavior.

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