Still running! Recent work on the neuromechanics of insect locomotion

Monday, September 27, 2010 -
4:00pm to 6:00pm
I will describe several models for running insects, from an energy-conserving biped with passively-sprung legs to a muscle-actuated hexapod driven by a neural central pattern generator(CPG). Phase reduction and averaging theory collapses some 300 differential equations that describe this neuromechanical model to 24 one-dimensional oscillators that track motoneuron phases. The reduced model accurately captures the dynamics of unperturbed gaits and the effects of impulsive perturbations, and phase response and coupling functions provide improved understanding of reflexive feedback mechanisms. Specifically, piecewise-holonomic constraints due to intermittent foot contacts confers asymptotic stability on the CPG-driven feedforward system, the natural dynamics features a slow subspace that permits maneuverability, and leg force sensors modulate firing patterns to mitigate large perturbations. More generally, I will argue that both simple models and large simulations are necessary to understand such complex systems. The talk will draw on joint work with Einat Fuchs, Robert Full, Raffaele Ghigliazza, Raghu Kukillaya, Josh Proctor, John Schmitt, Justin Seipel and Manoj Srinivasan. Research supported by NSF and the J. Insley Blair Pyne Fund of Princeton University.
Philip Holmes
Princeton University
Event Location: 
Fine Hall 214