This is the abstract of a talk prepared for the International interdisciplinary seminar on new robotics, evolution and embodied cognition (IISREEC).12th to 15th November 2002, Lisbon, Portugal
Abstract: Every year brings fresh evidence that biological brains and nervous systems are far more flexible and fluid in their operation than was suspected even a decade ago. An apparently complex picture is slowly coming into focus, a picture involving: subtly interwoven electrochemical processes employing various levels of modulation and reconfiguration acting at a variety of spatial and temporal scales, cell movement and death, convoluted signalling pathways built on intricate interplay between signalling and receptor molecules, to name but a few phenomena that are gaining in prominence in the quest to understand the neural basis of behaviour. This talk will ask whether it is possible to abstract useful principles from the current frenzy of discoveries in the brain sciences and transplant them into the world of robot control systems. Drawing on Sussex research, promising case studies will be presented. Even if it is not possible to capture enough of the complexity and richness of real brains in our artificial systems, there remains the intriguing possibility of using real neuronal networks to control autonomous robots. A brief survey of some of the work attempting to do just that will be given before speculating on where all this might lead.