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Animats - neural culture controlled robots for closed-loop neuroscience

School of Biological Sciences

About the Project

The project will continue research started at the University of Reading on animats - robotic platforms controlled in real time by activity of biological neuron cultures and will investigate the methods for implementing efficient conditioning protocols. In order to understand how neural activity leads to behaviour we need to study networks operating in a continous closed loop of interactions between neural activity and behaviours. Yet vast majority of neurosciece is based on an open loop paradigm - where stimulus is delivered and results of its effect on a neural tissue simply noted. An animat platform allows to combine principles of cybernetics with neuroscience and build a system with a minimal ’nervous system’ substrate that operates in a closed loop with a robotic platform.

This project will build the closed loop platform, and attempt to perform various form of behaviour by animat by investigating different forms of conditioning. It will require combination of the tools from neuroengineering wiht cybernetic principles.

The project will be hosted in the Brain Embodiment Laboratory (BEL) within the School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading. BEL is an interdisciplinary laboratory where complex systems approaches to modelling and analysis meet empirical studies and where investigations of fundamental properties of cognitive systems are translated into improved bioengineering solutions. The University of Reading is one of the UK’s 20 most research-intensive universities and among the top 200 universities in the world. Achievements include the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement (1989) and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education (1998, 2006 and 2009). This project will take place in the Brain Embodiment Lab within Biomedical Engineering Section of the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), which has a strong reputation for its innovative research in cybernetics, and biomedical engineering, including Brain Computer Interfaces, animats - robots controlled by cultures of living neuronal cells and cognitive robotics systems.

For informal inquiries please contact Prof SJ Nasuto, email: .

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a bachelors (at least 2.1 or equivalent) or masters degree in physics,
applied mathematics, engineering, computing or a strongly related discipline.

Strong analytic and programming skills are desired as is interest in learning neurobiology lab techniques.

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