At a meeting in New York last week [edit: many months ago by the time I got around to posting this], we were discussing the recent push in neuroscience for more naturalistic behaviors. One of the problems, someone pointed out, is that they are difficult to analyze. But surely there must be whole fields devoted to understanding natural behaviors? Why do we, as neuroscientists, not interact with them?
When I started this blog I named it neuroecology for exactly that reason: there was this whole field of ecology that has thought about natural behaviors very deeply for a long, long time and going over those papers on a blog seemed like a great way to understand them. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was using the wrong word; it wasn’t ecology that I was looking for it was ethology. Ecology is more generally about broad interactions between animals and environments. Ethology is the specific study of animal behavior.
So: ethologists. The studiers of natural animal behavior. What can neuroscientists learn from these mythical beings? I tried to collect as many syllabi as I could find (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, with thanks to Bence Ölveczky for sending me theirs in personal communication) to find papers that neuroscientists will find relevant for understanding how to analyze natural behaviors (with a few that I think are relevant thrown into the mix).
Consider this post a “living document” that I will update over time. Mostly it is a big list of papers that I have separated into sub-topics that drastically need to be cleaned up. If I’m missing something, let me know!