INC Open Mind Seminar Series
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm
Salle des Conférences (R229), Centre Universitaire des Saints-Pères, 45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75006 Paris
Tony Prescott, Active Touch Laboratory and Adaptive Behavior Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield
Investigating brain architecture through active touch sensing in animals and robots
The systems approach in the brain sciences has demonstrated that there is no straightforward decomposition of the brain into modules, or even a simple means to separate the brain from the body (in control terms), or the body from the environment. So how should we proceed to understand the relationship between brain and behaviour? Our approach has been to investigate a complete sensorimotor loop, specifically, the guidance of exploratory behaviour by tactile sensing signals. We have focused on the rat whisker (vibrissal) system as a model. The neurobiology of this system indicates multiple layers of control, that can be loosely mapped to the different levels of the neuraxis, and that exhibit both some redundancy and some modularity. Neuroethological experiments show a tight coupling between sensory signals and active control of the movement and positioning of the sensors. Electrophysiological and modelling studies suggest a system that is capable of rapidly extracting relevant affordances for action, rather than constructing complex internal representations of the external world. These ideas will be illustrated with examples from our research on active touch sensing in animals and in biomimetic robots.