Embodied computation: Lessons from a worm

Netta Cohen, University of Leeds. Part of the Algebra, Logic, and Algorithms Seminar Series.

Biological systems solve computational problems in remarkable ways.  Animals, in particular, have nervous systems that allow them to sense and act on the environment in ways that bewilder the imagination.  Among the simplest animal nervous systems are those of nematodes or roundworms.  Here I will present some recent progress in modelling the neural control of behaviour in one nematode: the microswimmer C. elegans.  Results will include a study of locomotion and gait modulation, and of sensory computation that mediates navigation and foraging.  For each example, I will discuss the respective roles of the neuronal dynamics, the animal's embodiment and its situatedness in the environment.  In so doing, I will highlight the sometimes counterintuitive nature of some of the engineering solutions proposed, and the implications, both for translating these models into algorithms for embodied and situated agents.