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Scientists from Europe, Israel and the US develop robotic rats to aid in rescue missions
Date:2/11/2008

a rat uses its whiskers is context-dependent. The seemingly simple act of feeling out a 3-D object, for example, requires three different types of code, each encoding a different dimension the horizontal, the vertical, and the radial (distance from the whisker base). The horizontal plane, for instance, is encoded in the precise timing of neural signals relative to the whisking motion. The vertical, i.e., the object height, is encoded by the vertical spacing of the whiskers, which are arranged grid-like on either side of the snout. The radial plane, on the other hand, is encoded in the number of times the neurons fire: The closer an object is to the rat's snout, the higher the number of neuron-signaling spikes.

The consortiums research also suggest that the signals travel from the whiskers through parallel pathways that function within parallel closed feedback loops, constantly monitoring the signals they receive and changing their responses accordingly. The researchers believe that it is the complex interactions between the feedback loops that are responsible for the rich and accurate control of movement, but at the same time, it poses an engineering challenge when trying to build artificial systems based on this concept.

'In order to investigate the role of feedback loops further,' says Prof. David Golomb of Ben Gurion University, Israel, whose research team is one of the groups participating in the multinational project, 'consortium members will implement theoretical methods and calculations from theoretical physics and applied mathematics in order to develop and research models that describe the complicated neural processes that control active sensing'. The models are based on experimental observations, and are expected to be tested by experimental consortium teams.

Ahissar: 'The aim of this research is to help gain a better understanding of the brain on the one hand, and advance technology on the other. That is to say, researchers c
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Contact: Yivsam Azgad
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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Scientists from Europe, Israel and the US develop robotic rats to aid in rescue missions
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