Maryland Robotics Center Seminar: Noah Cowan "Feedback Controllers in Locomoting Animals"

Friday, November 2, 2012
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
2168 A.V. Williams Building
Anagha Kohojkar
301 405 4419

Maryland Robotics Center Seminar Series
Identification of Feedback Controllers in Locomoting Animals

| Video |

Noah J. Cowan
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Johns Hopkins University

Derek Paley

Quality system identification of animal motor behavior requires the ability to systematically and richly perturb multiple sensory and motor systems while many individual animals (N>4) each perform tens of thousands (N>10,000) of locomotor cycles (wingbeats, strides, etc). Behaviors in which the animal actively regulates sensory signals to desired equilibria allow for precisely this sort of input--output system identification. And, the beauty of perturbing around steady-state equilibria is that these behaviors might afford relatively simple (and therefore robust) tools for their analysis, like frequency-domain methods. This may even be possible for periodic (limit cycle) dynamics by using harmonic transfer function analysis as is being explored in collaboration with University of Maryland researchers.

In this talk, I report on a wide variety of projects in which such system identification has led to new insights in the neural control across taxa (fish, flies, moths, and people). Some of our systems are special because they involve sensorimotor control but no movement, allowing us to identify neural dynamics without the confound of the locomotor plant. Working with neurophysiologists, our ultimate goal is to identify the neural mechanisms that underly the controllers we discover via system identification.

Noah J. Cowan received a B.S. degree from the Ohio State University, Columbus, in 1995, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1997 and 2001 – all in electrical engineering. Following his Ph.D., he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley for 2 years. In 2003, he joined the mechanical engineering department at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, where he is now an Associate Professor. Prof. Cowan's research interests include mechanics and multisensory control in animals and machines. Prof. Cowan received the NSF PECASE award in 2010, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Complex Systems in 2012, and the William H. Huggins Award for excellence in teaching in 2004.

Audience: Graduate  Undergraduate  Faculty  Post-Docs  Alumni  Corporate 

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