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New Software Speeds Analysis of Animal Behavior

Using new software developed at HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, a computer can be trained to recognize characteristic animal behaviors like an experienced biologist. Rather than scrutinizing hours of video to catalog how often fruit flies chase one another, for example, scientists can quickly teach the software what to look for, and let it convert the video into useful statistics.

With affordable technology for capturing video and new research tools that enable large-scale studies, some behavioral scientists are finding themselves with more data than they could ever hope to analyze. “We need automated techniques to keep up with the technology,” says Janelia fellow Kristin Branson, who led the development of the new software. Branson’s team developed the Janelia Automatic Animal Behavior Annotator, or JAABA, to automate and standardize the essential but time-consuming task of classifying animal behavior.

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