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[ONLINE] From rats to robots: closing the sensorimotor loop—ALD lecture by Mitra Hartmann

14 October 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


A talk by Mitra Hartmann, Professor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University

Abstract: Ada Lovelace is best known for her notes on the Analytical Engine of Charles Babbage. The engine is a machine that uses movement to compute the answers to mathematical equations. Now imagine a machine whose movements help compute its own next movement. Animals can be thought of as this type of machine. The nervous system of an animal takes as input the current sensory and motor state, and uses that information to compute the commands to be sent to the muscles to make the next movement. Viewed in this way, it becomes clear that the physical body of an animal – including the geometry and mechanics of its muscles and sensors – directly drives the evolution of its nervous system, and vice versa. An animal’s sensory and motor structures coevolve with its nervous system to enable it to survive within its particular ethological niche. In this talk I will first discuss the characteristics of the brain that make it so difficult to study. Why is it taking scientists so long to understand neural function? What’s the hold up? I will then describe our laboratory’s model system of choice: the rat vibrissal (whisker) system. We are using approaches in robotics, simulation, and neurophysiology to begin to understand the connections between sensing, movement, and perception.

Mitra Hartmann received a Bachelor of Science in Applied and Engineering Physics from Cornell University, a PhD in Integrative Neuroscience from the California Institute of Technology, and worked as a post-doctoral scholar at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Bio-Inspired Technology and Systems group. Dr. Hartmann is currently a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University with a 50-50 joint appointment between the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. She is the Director of Graduate Studies for the Biomedical Engineering department, and an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).


14 October 2021
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Concordia University
1455 Boulevard de Maisonneuve O
Montréal, Quebec H3G 1M8 Canada
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