|Collective Maze Exploration in Rats|
|Mate Nagy1,2,3,4,5, Attila Horicsányi2, Enikő Kubinyi6, Iain D. Couzin3,4,5, Gábor Vásárhelyi2,7, Andrea Flack4,5,8, Tamás Vicsek2,7. 1MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület’ Collective Behaviour Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary; 2MTA-ELTE Statistical and Biological Physics Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, , Hungary; 3Department of Collective Behaviour, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, , Germany; 4Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, , Germany; 5Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, , Germany; 6Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary; 7Department of Biological Physics, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary; 8Department of Migration, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell, , Germany
Despite rats being highly social, their group search behavior has not been investigated using the classical behavioral task of maze solving. Here we explore the decision-making of rats searching individually, or in groups, for a reward in a complex maze environment. Using automated video tracking, we find that rats exhibit – even when alone – a partially systematic search, leading to a continuous increase in their chance of finding the reward due to increased attraction to unexplored regions. When searching together, however, synergistic group advantages arise through integration of individual exploratory and social behavior. Furthermore, we present a computational model to compare the essential factors that influence how collective search operates, and to validate that the strategy employed by rats is highly effective. The ability to establish relatively simple decision rules, solely based on restricted sensory inputs and local communication with others can serve as direct inspiration for designing computational search algorithms and systems such as autonomous robot groups to explore areas inaccessible to humans.