Locomotion: exploiting noise for state estimation
Running, walking, flying and swimming are all processes in which animals produce propulsion by executing rhythmic motions of their bodies. Dynamical stability of the locomotion is hardly automatic: millions of older people are injured by falling each year. Stability frequently requires sensory feedback. We investigate how organisms obtain the information they use in maintaining their stability. Assessing stability of a periodic orbit of a dynamical system requires information about the dynamics of the system off the orbit. For locomotion driven by a periodic orbit, perturbations that “kick” the trajectory off the orbit must occur in order to observe convergence rates toward the orbit. We propose that organisms generate excitations in order to set the gains for stabilizing feedback. We hypothesize further that these excitations are stochastic but have heavy-tailed, non-Gaussian probability distributions. Compared to Gaussian distributions, we argue that these are more effective for estimating stability characteristics of the orbit. Finally, we propose experiments to test the efficacy of these ideas.
KeywordsLocomotion Stochastic dynamical system Floquet multiplier
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