• SPECS
  • SPECS
  • SPECS

Neuro-robotics as a tool to understand the brain

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?

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.

Matching profiles

Biology, mathematics, physics, computer sciences, robotics, artificial interlligence

Required materials

Laptop, cell phone (preferably Android)

Coordinator of the project
Martí Sanchez

Martí Sanchez

Marti Sanchez is a Computer Scientist and did his PhD in the field of Combinatorial Optimization and Heuristic Search in the Artificial Intelligence Institute (IIIA-CSIC) in Barcelona (Spain). He is professor of Computer Science in University Pompeu Fabra (UPF). He works in SPECS for the last 6 years continuing his research in artificial intelligence from a biologically constrained perspective.

Associated researchers
Maria Blancas

Maria Blancas

Maria Blancas is a PhD candidate in the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) and a researcher in the SPECS group in University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), in Barcelona (Spain). Her research is focused on Educational Technologies and Human-Robot Interaction. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Audiovisual Communication from University Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona (Spain) and a Master’s Degree in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media from UPF.

Vicky Vouloutsi

Vicky Vouloutsi

Vicky Vouloutsi studied Computer Science at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens (BA 2008). In 2009 she came to Barcelona where she did her Master in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She completed her master thesis on biologically inspired computation for chemical sensing (www.neurochem-project.org) in SPECS where she is currently working as a continuation of her thesis.

The center
SPECS

The Laboratory of Synthetic Perceptive Emotive Cognitive Systems (SPECS) is part of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies at the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), whose mission is to understand mind, brain and behaviour through constructing synthetic perceptive, emotive and cognitive systems.