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Darlene Forde's picture

Can Central Pattern Generators be successfully reproduced?

I found the concept of central pattern generators (CPG) and corollary discharge sequences intriguing. They offer a means of understanding the nervous system in intriguing ways that reflect both the complexity of interactions associated with specific types of response, and the simplicity inherent in the physical manifestation of these responses. Yet I wonder how easily specific patterns can be fully identified and sequenced. In class we considered how such systems might operate within simple sea creatures. Using such methods to understand behaviors in humans however, is (and will be) exceedingly more difficult. (We are unlikely to remove body parts of people in order to identify patterns within the CPG.)

Artificial life, however, offers a means by which we can learn and speculate about CPG in different life forms. Researchers at the University of Hawaii, for example, are working on developing robots and other forms of artificial intelligence by modeling the neuromorphic pattern generator of their robots after the CPG in humans. Indeed, they have implemented the use of what they call a “very large scale integrated (VLSI) chip” containing oscillator circuits designed to mimic the output of motor neurons in a way that parallels the actions of the CPG with its inherent simplicity in the physical manifestation of the response. The result is that the robots designed by these researchers walk more “smoothly” with less of the ungainly awkwardness associated with the walking gait control of robots.

Link to NIH

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