Neuro-robotics as a tool to understand the brain

The Project

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 that can be easily implemented with a robot by directly connecting sensors and motors. These behaviors are considered to be reactive and a direct mapping from sensors to actuation. What we want to do in this project is to use biological principles to map simple and complex behaviors into synthetic systems such as robots.

By following the structure of a neuro-biological control strategy based on a biologically based control Architecture developed at SPECS called DAC (Distributed Adaptive Control), we will learn how to implement a series of increasingly complex behavioral tasks such as a foraging… By using robots, you can teach them to search for food like animals do!

Students that join this project will experience how to build new behaving artefacts using state of art technology and knowledge in neuroscience, robotics and artificial intelligent, really embedded in a transdisciplinary environment.

In this course, we will use mobile 3D printed robots to address how we can build up complex behaviors introducing learning and memory into play. Students will be able to add more complex layers of behavior following the structure of the DAC architecture, which assumes that behavior is organized in layers from reactive, to adaptive (simplest learning) and contextual (including memory and learning).

Matching profiles

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

Coordinator of the project

Anna Mura

  • Degree in Biology.
  • PhD in Neuroscience.
  • Her main interest has been the understanding of brain degenerative diseases and loss of learning capability.
  • Current study in the question of creativity in artificial and biological systems.
  • She is also involved in projects that investigate learning principles using robots and human robot interaction methodologies.
  • Studying creativity is important to address fundamental challenges in education, cultural heritage and human experience.
Vicky Vouloutsi

Vicky Vouloutsi

  • Degree in Computer Science by the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) - Athens, Greece.
  • MSc in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media by Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) - Barcelona, Spain. Master thesis on biologically inspired computation for chemical sensing ( using insect-based robots.
  • PhD in Robotics by UPF and thesis on: “Learning from a robot: a study for the creation of synthetic psychologically plausible agents”.
  • Expert in educational robotics.
  • Head of the Robotics laboratory in SPECS at IBEC.
Maria Blancas

Maria Blancas

  • Degree in Audiovisual Communication.
  • MSc in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media by UPF.
  • PhD candidate in the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) and a researcher in the SPECS group at IBEC.
  • Research focused on Educational Technologies and Human-Robot Interaction.
  • Robotics teacher to primary and secondary school students.
Associated researchers

Ismael Tito Freire

  • Degree in Audiovisual Communication.
  • MSc in Digital Arts by Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) - Barcelona, Spain.
  • MSc in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media (UPF).
  • PhD candidate in the SPECS group at IBEC.
  • Study in multi-agent systems and social decision-making in humans and machines.

Cristina Valero

  • Degree in Product Design.
  • MSc in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media.
  • Educator, designer and researcher and finishing Gestalt Therapy Training Program this year.
  • Children’s Robotics Teacher with over 10 years’ experience in the education sector
  • Dinghy sailing coordinator and instructor of children and teenagers.
The center

The laboratory of Synthetic Perceptive Emotive Cognitive Systems (SPECS) is part of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), whose mission is to understand mind, brain and behaviour through constructing synthetic perceptive, emotive and cognitive systems.