Synthetic, Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems Lab (SPECS)


The University Pompeu Fabra (UPF) is the youngest public university in Catalonia, being founded in 1990. The proposed project will be implemented at the Laboratory of Synthetic Perceptive Emotive Cognitive Systems (SPECS). SPECS is part of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies at the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF). SPECS mission is to understand mind, brain and behaviour through constructing synthetic perceptive, emotive and cognitive systems. SPECS performs interdisciplinary research in the domains of technology, cognitive science and humanities, and has a long-standing tradition in the domains of computational neuroscience, cognitive science and interactive systems. SPECS group is a multidisciplinary group founded in 2005 by the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor Paul Verschure.

Excellence and recognition awards
  • 2014 – “Consolidated Research Group” award by the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya).
  • 2014 – Paul Verschure, director of SPECS, was awarded for “Excellence in Knowledge Transfer” by UPF Social Committee for the achievement with the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS).
  • 2014 – Recognized with an European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant for the “CDAC – The role of consciousness in adaptive behaviour: A combined empirical, computational and robot based approach” project.
  • 2012 – “Finalist Award” by Pasion>ie (Insituto de Empresa, Madrid) for the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS) research project.
  • 2012 – “Social Media and Creativity” award of the Campus Milenio Event.
Ranking positioning
  • 2015 – UPF ranks on the Times Higher Education Ranking, being the 12th highest ranked university in the world among those under 50 years of age.
  • 2015 – UPF ranks 9th in Europe in Multirank.
  • 2015 – UPF ranks as the most productive university in Spain in the U-Ranquing (BBVA Foundation – Ivie)
  • 2014 – UPF ranks as the 1st Spanish university (position 165 worldwide and 72 in Europe) on the Times Higher Education Ranking.
  • 2014 – UPF is among the 400 top universities in the world, according to Shanghai University Ranking, and by fields, it is the 1st Spanish university in Social Sciences.
Director of the center
Paul Verschure

Paul Verschure

Paul Verschure is professor and director of the Center of Autonomous Systems and Neurorobotics at University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), where he runs the Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems (SPECS) laboratory. He received his MS and PhD in Psychology and his scientific aim is to find a unified theory of mind and brain using synthetic methods and to apply it to quality of life enhancing technologies. His theory –Distributed Adaptive Control– has been generalized to a range of brain structures and robotic systems and has laid the foundation for a novel neurorehabilitation approach called the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS). SPECS comprises a multidisciplinary team of 30 researchers in a wide range of disciplines. Paul has represented Switzerland in the Global Science Forum of the OECD, is chair of the annual Barcelona Cognition, Brain and Technology Summer School and co-chair of the annual Convergent Science Network’s Conference Living Machines for which he also hosts a podcast.

Renowned researcher

Clement Moulin

Clement Moulin obtained his PhD in Engineering of Cognition, Interaction, Learning and Creation from Grenoble University in 2011. His main research interests are the modelling of social behavior formation in sensorimotor agents. In 2009 he has been a visiting scholar in Michael Arbib's lab at the University of Southern California. After a short contract at the Collège de France in Paris where he worked on probabilist optimal control, he conducted his research between 2011 and 2014 in the Flowers group at Inria Bordeaux (France), in the field of developmental robotics. He has developed the open-source Explauto library for the modelling of curiosity-driven learning and is a member of the Poppy project where he has realized a number of open-source robotic demonstrations. He has published approximately 20 papers in various international journals and conferences.

The project

Do you want to understand the neuronal substrate of animals by building robots and programming them using neuronal principles? Do you want to understand how learning happens in the brain? How a brain knows where we are and move in space and how we plan and implement goal directed behavior? You will build and program Arduino-Robots to understand the simplest animals in terms of its neuronal organization and its behaviour.