Regulatory mechanisms underlying novelty-induced grooming in the laboratory rat.

Bouts of pelage cleaning can be readily evoked in laboratory rodents under conditions of exposure to novelty. Such novelty-induced grooming is described as stereotyped and rostro-caudal in its progression. The patterned structure of novelty-induced grooming makes it particularly attractive for research on the organizational and motivational underpinnings of co-ordinated behaviour. Micro-characteristics of stereotyped novelty-induced grooming bouts were studied in 27 female Wistar rats that were exposed to a novel arena with shelters for a period of 15 min. The order of grooming acts within the initial bouts was rostro-caudal, but subsequent bouts became progressively disorganized in their sequencing. The observed pattern of progressive bout disorganization may be attributed to the gradual dearousal from stress. Differences between consecutive bouts in their micro-characteristics suggest that at least some grooming actions emitted within the context of those bouts operate as relatively independent units of behaviour. Those unitary component actions appear to be integrated into protracted pelage cleaning sequences by a separate mechanism. Similar endogenous mechanisms have been proposed for other co-ordinated motor actions, which suggests that the organizational principles identified in the context of novelty-induced grooming may represent general principles that govern co-ordinated behaviour.

Bouts of pelage cleaning can be readily evoked in laboratory rodents under conditions of exposure to novelty. Such novelty-induced grooming is described as stereotyped and rostro-caudal in its progression. The patterned structure of novelty-induced grooming makes it particularly attractive for research on the organizational and motivational underpinnings of co-ordinated behaviour. Micro-characteristics of stereotyped novelty-induced grooming bouts were studied in 27 female Wistar rats that were exposed to a novel arena with shelters for a period of 15 min. The order of grooming acts within the initial bouts was rostro-caudal, but subsequent bouts became progressively disorganized in their sequencing. The observed pattern of progressive bout disorganization may be attributed to the gradual dearousal from stress. Differences between consecutive bouts in their micro-characteristics suggest that at least some grooming actions emitted within the context of those bouts operate as relatively independent units of behaviour. Those unitary component actions appear to be integrated into protracted pelage cleaning sequences by a separate mechanism. Similar endogenous mechanisms have been proposed for other co-ordinated motor actions, which suggests that the organizational principles identified in the context of novelty-induced grooming may represent general principles that govern co-ordinated behaviour.

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