Sunday, February 11, 2007

A review of Just Science Week

By way of a final post for the week of science challenge, I have decided to review my previous six posts. Not strictly speaking a paper review, or a 'professional' opinion (which I believe was the goal of posting this past week), but something I think would be interesting - a review of reviews - and make a nice conclusion for the past week. (And I haven't got round to reading another paper - man-'flu has struck once again...).

On Monday, a paper by Bechara et al. on the relationship between emotion and decision making was reviewed (the somatic marker hypothesis). The study essentially found evidence supporting the view that emotion is a central part of decision making, as it's use provides a filter-like function which reduces the decision space and enables decisions to be taken in a time-frame suitable for action in the real world. On Tuesday, a paper on brain based devices by Krichmar and Edelman was looked at. This paper provided an introduction to this work, presenting the principles of building devices (robots) according to neurobiological rather than computational principles. These principles have formed the basis of the Darwin series of robots which are capable of complex learning and completion of tasks - all of which are self learned without explicit pre-programming. Wednesday saw the review of a maze task often used in rat studies to assess spatial memory: The Morris Water Maze. As mentioned, this maze has also recently found use in robotics studies for a similar purpose, as it provides a challenge which involves the interaction of sensory and motor systems, as well as the requirement for memory - all of which are required for an autonomous agent. The posts for Thursday and Friday were somwhat shorter, with Thursday providing a brief discussion on why using artificial agents in the study of biological systems may be useful (something I hope to expand on in a future post), and Friday with a brief review of a paper by Sane et al on the presence of a gyroscope-like system in moths which enable them to achieve a steady flight in the absence of visual cues, which I use as a simple example of the importance of physical implementation of a system as well as the control system. Finally, yesterdays post provided a brief introduction to a tutorial on Humanoid Robotics by the Idaho National Laboratory, which I think is well worth a read.

So, if there is a theme to be found among these posts, it would be a review of work from a wide range of disciplines and their applications to cognitive robotics. I think two things can be said for this: firstly that if one wants to maintain the biological plausibility of a cognitive model, one must take into account the necessities and limitations of the biological system(s) of interest; and secondly, that expanding one's horizons and examining the work of others in different (sometimes completely different) disciplines can provide you ideas and inspiration which would be hard to come by in any other way. That's the hope of my work... hopefully... sometime in the future... :-s

Finally, I'd like to thank all the contributors to the Just Science Week for their interesting and informative posts, and I hope that next year will be just as good. Although I hope that then, I'll be able to keep up with the one-paper-review-a-day thing.

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