Active Sensing of Visual and Tactile Stimuli by Brain-based Devices

A.K. Seth, J.L. McKinstry, G.M. Edelman, and J.L. Krichmar


Behaviour, categorization, conditioning, embodiment, plasticity, value systems


We describe the construction and performance of “brain-based devices" (BBDs), physical devices that carry out perceptual categorization and selective conditioning to complex visual and textural stimuli. BBDs are physical devices controlled by simulated nervous systems based on vertebrate neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. They receive sensory input from on-board sensors including cameras, microphones, and artificial whiskers; they have a large-scale neural simulation, a phenotype, a body plan, and they take action based on experiential learning. Key neural mechanisms in the present BBDs include synaptic plasticity, reward or value systems, reentrant connectivity, the dynamic synchronization of neuronal activity, and neuronal units with spatiotemporal response properties. BBDs permit analysis of activity at all levels of the nervous system during behaviour, and as such they provide a rich source of heuristics for generating hypotheses regarding brain function. Moreover, by taking inspiration from systems neuroscience, BBDs provide a novel architecture for the design of neuromorphic systems.

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