Neuroscience Program Seminar


Benny Hochner

Hebrew University


Motor control without central representation – the special case of the soft-bodied octopus


Octopuses provide an outstanding example of successful motor behavior created with a flexible body lacking any form of skeletal support. In skeletal animals the interfacing of sensory and motor information for planning motor reactions is based on neural representation of sensory and motor information in body-part coordinates. In contrast, in hyperedundant soft-bodied animals this approach is impractical due to the infinitely large variables (DOFs) needed to represent the soft body. Octopus overcame this difficulty through coevolution of body and brain to fit the highly active tasks environment. I will show that this was achieved thorough the selection of novelties at all levels, from the neuromuscular system of the arms up to the organization of higher motor control centers in the central brain. All these unique solutions help explain how the “alien” looking body of the octopus simplifies locomotion control; how the special distribution of the central and peripheral nervous system simplifies control of goal-directed arm movements; why higher control centers in the brain are not organized somatotopically as in vertebrates; why arm coordination in locomotion involves probabilistic control mechanisms rather than a deterministic CPG; and, finally, why motor learning employs ‘strategy-learning’ rather than ‘skill-learning’. In summary, we learn from the octopus that embodied organization, a concept developed in robotics, is also an important biological principle that leads to control simplification through adaptation of the body to the task.



Dr. Galit Pelled


Tuesday, September 18th, 2018 at 12:30pm

IQ Atrium


This seminar will originate from IQ Atrium, East Lansing

This seminar is also available for viewing in room 1102 Grand Rapids Research Center