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REVERB: Reverse Engineering the VERtebrate Brain

Original title: Integrative computation for autonomous agents: a novel approach based on the vertebrate brain (EP/C516303/1)

This EPSRC-funded  project ran from 2005 to 2010 and has now finished. This site summarises the project, its output, and provides links to project-related images, videos etc. It is intended mainly for a general audience


How do we decide what to do next? We are constantly bombarded by an enormous amount of information from our senses and our own internal thoughts. At any one moment, there are a large number of actions I can perform (do I carry on typing this, or do the washing up, or turn and pay attention to that sound I just heard…?) but I can do only one of them at any one time.  Every animal has to solve this problem of action selection . The REVERB project focussed on two particular domains of action selection: gaze control (how do I decide where to look next) and reach (when should I reach and to which objects).

Our strategy in tackling these problems  is to attempt to discover nature’s solutions by `reverse engineering’  the brain. Our starting point in this process is that there is good evidence that the basal ganglia  – a set of sub-cortical brain nuclei – play a pivotal role in action selection for all vertebrates. The project has confirmed this hypothesis in models at the level of neural microcircuits, brain systems, and complete embodied agents (robots) endowed with biologically plausible behaviour.

A full summary may be found here

For further informal insights into the project see this entry for the 2007 EPSRC science writing competition.

Watch the video of InsideTrak – a fusion of art, robotics and neuroscience using one of the robot demonstrators built on the project.