A Model of Sensorimotor Coordination in the Rat Whisker System

  • Ben Mitchinson
  • Martin Pearson
  • Chris Melhuish
  • Tony J. Prescott
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4095)


The rat has a sophisticated tactile sensory system centred around the facial whiskers. During normal behaviour, rats sweep their longer whiskers (macrovibrissae) through the environment to obtain large-scale information, whilst gathering small-scale information with the sensory apparatus around their snout. The macrovibrissae are actively and differentially controlled. Using high-speed video recording, we have observed that temporal and spatial parameters of whisking pattern generation are modulated to match environmental features such as the position and orientation of nearby surfaces. Whisking is also closely co-ordinated with head and body movements, allowing the animal to locate and orient to interesting stimuli detected through whisker contact. In this paper, we present a hybrid (spiking-neuron/arithmetic) model of the neural systems underlying these observed adaptive sensorimotor behaviours, and demonstrate its performance in a simulated robot with rat-like morphology. We also report progress towards embedding these control systems in a physical robot with biomimetic whiskers.


Superior Colliculus Coincidence Detector Sensorimotor Coordination Facial Motor Nucleus Contralateral Whisker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Mitchinson
    • 1
  • Martin Pearson
    • 2
  • Chris Melhuish
    • 2
  • Tony J. Prescott
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Sheffield 
  2. 2.The University of the West of England 

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