Neuro-robotics as a tool to understand the brain
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?
To understand brains we need to start from the simplest animals: take for example the worm C-Elegans with only 350 neurons, able to look for food, remember food locations and mate. Brains originally evolved for movement: consider as an example phototaxis, the movement away or towards a stimulus or light which can be easily implemented with a robot by directly connecting sensors and motors. This behaviours are considered to be reactive a direct mapping from sensors to actuation. You will consider how we can build up more complex behaviours introducing learning and memory into play.
For this purpose, you will build and program Arduino-Robots to understand the simplest animals in terms of its neuronal organization and its behaviour. Staring from simple reactive (direct mapping of sensors to motors) to adaptive and contextual ones (learned and acquired), you will be able to present a diversity of tasks that simple animals need to solve for survival. You don’t require previous knowledge of Arduino or programming: you will be guided and we will provide lots of examples.
You will be able to add more complex layers of behaviour following the structure of the Distributed Adaptive Control (DAC, biologically based control Architecture developed at SPECS). DAC assumes that behaviour is organized in layers from reactive, to adaptive (simplest learning) and contextual (including memory and learning). You will learn how to implement using robots a series of increasingly complex animal tasks that go in the direction of solving a general foraging task following the structure of a neuro-biological control strategy based on DAC.
The final mission is to understand the brain by implementing brain models into robots to finally go back to the brain and be able to repair it. A brain cannot develop without a body because it evolved to control movement and behaviour. Robotics will be a fundamental scientific element to understand the brain, and you as a researcher will be the main piece to carry it out.
Biology, mathematics, physics, computer sciences, robotics, artificial interlligence
Laptop, cell phone (preferably Android)