Interactive & Emergent Autonomy Lab


Active Learning and Data-Driven Control Active Perception in Human-Swarm Collaboration Algorithmic Matter and Emergent Computation Control for Nonlinear and Hybrid Systems Cyber Physical Systems in Uncertain Environments Information Maximizing Clinical Diagnostics Reactive Learning in Underwater Exploration Robot-Assisted Rehabilitation Software-Enabled Biomedical Devices

Vibrissal-Responsive Neurons

Rat Whisking

Experimental data of a rat whisking to explore its environment

Shape Estimation Simulation

Simulated exploration strategies for an agent to localize itself in its environment

Shape Estimation Experiment

Ergodic exploration using binary sensing for shape estimation

We see because retinal ganglion cells respond to light. We hear because spiral ganglion cells respond to sound. We feel because primary somatosensory neurons respond to touch. But what is touch? Whereas light and sound can be characterized by physical parameters (amplitude, frequency, phase, and polarization), the mechanics of touch, and the manner in which primary sensory neurons encode the parameters of touch, are largely unquantified. This is a glaring gap within the entire field of somatosensation, and it occurs because mechanics are difficult to quantify. To close this gap we will use the rat vibrissal (whisker) system as a model to directly relate the responses of primary sensory neurons to the quantified mechanics of touch. Paralleling the increased use of rodents in genetic and optogenetic research, the rodent vibrissal array has become an increasingly important model for the study of touch and sensorimotor integration.


Mitra Hartmann, Northwestern University


Ergodic exploration using binary sensing for non-parametric shape estimation
I. Abraham, A. Prabhakar, M. Hartmann, and T. D. Murphey
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 827–834, 2017. PDF, Video


This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health: Coding Properties of Vibrissal-Responsive Trigeminal Ganglion Neurons.