Movement through complex terrain in insects and robots
Roy E. Ritzmann, email@example.com, Case Western Reserve University, Department of Biology, DeGrace Hall, Room 220, 10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH
Insect locomotion provides an inherently interesting example of neural control in highly adaptive and agile animals. Moreover, their seamless navigation around unpredictable and complex terrain makes insect movement an excellent model for biorobotic development. A truly autonomous robot must be able to negotiate objects that are too large to simply step over and it must do so without outside intervention. Such a vehicle must be able to evaluate barriers and then use this information to generate appropriate climbing, turning or tunneling movements. This capability is rare in robots, but common in animals. As such, our laboratory investigates cockroach behavior as they negotiate large barriers under controlled walking speeds and interact with Dr. Roger Quinn’s biorobotics laboratory to implement our findings in robots. I will describe our motion analysis of climbing and turning of intact animals and alterations that occur as a result of general and more specific lesions of structures within the head ganglia. I will then move to our analysis of specific changes that occur in local control circuits found in the thoracic ganglia and briefly discuss our examination of pertinent brain regions. Our findings led to a hypothetical model in which higher brain regions work in tandem with local control circuits to generate adaptive stable movement. It suggests that, rather than taking over control of movement, higher brain regions generate subtle but critical changes in timing of movement or posture and then allow the local circuits to push control to a new stable turning, tunneling or climbing state.