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Northwestern study looks at sensing, movement and behavior
Date:11/20/2007

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Driving down a country road at night your cars headlights illuminate a deer in your path, and the creature doesnt move. Depending on your speed and other conditions, chances are good you will hit the deer. And if you do, its because you are in what is fittingly defined as the collision mode, according to a Northwestern University study, published online Nov. 13 by the journal PLoS Biology.

The Northwestern researchers are the first to clearly quantify the stopping motor volume (the amount of space it takes for an animal -- including one in a vehicle -- to come to a complete stop) and sensory volume (the amount of space an animal senses around it) for any animal. They then explored the relationships between the two volumes, defining three modes in which an animal could find itself in relation to another object -- collision (will collide every time), reactive (wont collide if on your toes) or deliberative (have lots of space to think about it).

The findings provide a fundamental scientific basis for quantifying and understanding the two volumes, insight that could be applied to understanding behavioral control strategies in animals as well as aid in engineering applications, such as designing autonomous robots or improving cockpit information systems for cars or airplanes to ensure that drivers and pilots are not in collision mode. The concepts can be applied to any situation in which an animal or object is moving through space guided by sensory information, including cars, airplanes, trains, bicycles and boats.

Weve now given people a way to think about sensory volume and a way to quantify and think about motor volume, said Malcolm MacIver, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of biomedical engineering at Northwesterns McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and senior author of the paper. For example, a person driving during daylight typically is in deliberative mode -- able to see objects f
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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