Centralization of Locomotor Control in Roaches & Robots

How do we assess the centralization of control in moving animals and machines and what are the consequences of changing centralization?Animals such as cockroaches must coordinate the movements of multiple legs, which are coupled components of a complex hybrid-dynamical system, in order to stably run. Coordination could be achieved through a decentralized control architecture, where […]

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Moths change their behavior, but not their aerodynamics to feed in windy environments

How do moths maneuver in windy environments?Hawkmoths naturally hover and feed from flowers in nature. Insects have developed an assortment of unsteady aerodynamic mechanisms to generate the high-lift necessary for hovering. While feeding, hawkmoths rely on precise wing kinematics to not only remain aloft, but also track the motion of flowers as they sway in […]

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Moths slow their brains to track flowers in low light

Hawkmoths, like Manduca sexta, hover and track moving flowers during natural foraging in  low light environments. Neural recordings from the visual part of the moth’s brain have suggested that as light levels drop, the moth changes its sensitivity to light by integrating light for a longer period of time. Such a strategy raises the possibility […]

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Simultaneous dimensionality reduction of motor commands and movement

Once a behaving organism has acquired, processed, and transmitted sensory information it must still alter patterns of motor activation in a manner that enables control. A central challenge in understanding motor control, particularly during complex rhythmic behaviors like flight, is decoding the specific features of body dynamics that are control by patterns of neural feedback […]

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Precision phase control in flight muscles

The established perspective of flight control in insects holds that their remarkable maneuverability arises from neural modulation of relatively small steering muscles acting in concert with the regular, clock-like activation of larger power muscles. Yet the power output of these main muscles is very sensitive to subtle timing changes in neural activation. To test if […]

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An intact-limb workloop reveals how cockroach muscle changes function

Intact-joint workloop preparation for examining muscle function in situ to reveal how neural feedback combines with mechanics to change how a muscle controls movement. Keeping the leg intact preserves natural oxygen and nutrient supply. In the previous project we altered the commands the cockroach’s brain was sending to its muscle in real-time while the animal […]

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Rewriting motor commands in a freely running animal shows the multifunctionality of muscle

What is the potential of a particular muscle to control locomotion and how does mechanics affect the control consequences of neural feedback to a muscle? Electrophysiological recordings of nerves and muscles during perturbations do not address how particular motor activation patterns control locomotion since many muscles can change in parallel and each can act in […]

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Bio-inspiration from how cockroaches navigate by touch

Animals must sense their environment in order to navigate. American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana L.) in the natural world often face navigation challenges in cluttered, low-light environments. To supplement their vision, they use their antenna as tactile probes. They can tracking surfaces with their long antennae by letting the antenna bend against the surface and rapidly […]

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How roaches run on rough terrian.

We tested whether mechanical stabilization strategies without external sensing can yield successful locomotion in a challenging environment. In this study, we ran cockroaches (Blaberus discoidalis) over a highly complex terrain with obstacles up to three times cockroach hip height to repeatedly perturb body dynamics. Cockroaches provide excellent systems for neuromechanical experiments because they are experimentally robust and […]

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