Monday, 30 November 2015

Rats: Sniff and track, or run and scan?

Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

It's dinnertime, and the smell of delicious food makes your tummy rumble. However, it's dark because of a powercut and you can't see very clearly. Should you try to 'follow your nose' to locate food? Or should you simply guess and peek into the kitchen, or the dining room or the veranda -- the likeliest places for dinner to be served? A recent study shows that the latter method -- dubbed 'run-and-scan' -- may actually be more efficient in finding your target than just following your nose.

Research by Urvashi Bhattacharyya and Upinder Bhalla from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, reveals that while searching in a familiar area with limited choices, a run-and-scan strategy is more efficient than a tracking strategy. In a recently published paper in the journal eNeuro, Bhattacharyya and Bhalla used rats to study how animals choose navigational strategies when presented with an odour signal.

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