University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Microsoft Research Machine Learning and Perception Seminars > Foundations of Neuromechanical Systems Biology: Combining engineering, biology, and mathematics to understand how we move

Foundations of Neuromechanical Systems Biology: Combining engineering, biology, and mathematics to understand how we move

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This talk will present an overview of research going on in the Spence group. As a whole we are interested in both how and why animals move, with a focus on the neuromechanical basis of legged locomotion: dissecting how the nervous and musculoskeletal systems work together to produce movement. This currently includes comparative work on the control strategies used by insects, dogs, and humans to handle soft terrain, that is shedding light on why humans adapt to soft surfaces in the way that they do. We take an integrative approach to locomotion, and employ legged robots to answer questions that are difficult or impossible in animals. Recently we have been funded to use optogenetics in mice to dissect the contributions of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems to locomotion, which represents an exciting frontier. With optogenetics, targeted subsets of neurons can be genetically modified with light responsive ion channels; shining light on these neurons makes them fire, or silences them. Through the integration of these powerful new molecular genetic tools, especially optogenetics, with the latest bioengineering technologies and approaches to mathematical modelling, we aim to tease apart the role of nervous feedback from feedforward musculoskeletal action. Critical to these efforts is taking advantage of the latest technologies to enable closed-loop experimental designs for running animals, using real-time computer vision, and to automate tracking and posture estimation from video, such that large, data driven models of the dynamics of animal locomotion can be built.

This talk is part of the Microsoft Research Machine Learning and Perception Seminars series.

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