Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems

, Volume 63, Issue 3–4, pp 361–397 | Cite as

Comparative Experimental Studies on Spatial Memory and Learning in Rats and Robots

  • Alejandra Barrera
  • Alejandra Cáceres
  • Alfredo Weitzenfeld
  • Victor Ramirez-Amaya


The study of behavioral and neurophysiological mechanisms involved in rat spatial cognition provides a basis for the development of computational models and robotic experimentation of goal-oriented learning tasks. These models and robotics architectures offer neurobiologists and neuroethologists alternative platforms to study, analyze and predict spatial cognition based behaviors. In this paper we present a comparative analysis of spatial cognition in rats and robots by contrasting similar goal-oriented tasks in a cyclical maze, where studies in rat spatial cognition are used to develop computational system-level models of hippocampus and striatum integrating kinesthetic and visual information to produce a cognitive map of the environment and drive robot experimentation. During training, Hebbian learning and reinforcement learning, in the form of Actor-Critic architecture, enable robots to learn the optimal route leading to a goal from a designated fixed location in the maze. During testing, robots exploit maximum expectations of reward stored within the previously acquired cognitive map to reach the goal from different starting positions. A detailed discussion of comparative experiments in rats and robots is presented contrasting learning latency while characterizing behavioral procedures during navigation such as errors associated with the selection of a non-optimal route, body rotations, normalized length of the traveled path, and hesitations. Additionally, we present results from evaluating neural activity in rats through detection of the immediate early gene Arc to verify the engagement of hippocampus and striatum in information processing while solving the cyclical maze task, such as robots use our corresponding models of those neural structures.


Hippocampus Striatum IEG Arc expression Spatial learning Cognitive map Place recognition Biorobotics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandra Barrera
    • 1
  • Alejandra Cáceres
    • 2
  • Alfredo Weitzenfeld
    • 1
  • Victor Ramirez-Amaya
    • 2
  1. 1.Computer Engineering Department–Robotics and Biorobotics LaboratoriesInstituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)MéxicoMéxico
  2. 2.Neurobiology Institute, Plastic Neural Networks LaboratoryUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)QuerétaroMéxico

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