The foundation is currently supporting a computer modelling centre within the Oxford University Department of Experimental Psychology
Computer modellers within the university research centre are investigating motor function in the brain. Experimental work indicates that during motor tasks such as reaching, the motor areas of the brain work in tandem with other brain areas that represent spatial information such as the position of the hand.
Inspired by these findings, we are developing models which combine motor and spatial networks that work together to carry out motor tasks. Our models are able to learn to perform arbitrary motor sequences, even in the absence of sensory feedback. Further work has shown how motor sequences can be learned with a delayed reward signal at the end of each training sequence.The models can also generate useful novel motor sequences, which were not performed during training.These are all important capabilities in animals.
We hope that our theoretical work in this area will help to inform medical research aimed at understanding and treating disorders affecting the motor functions of the nervous system.
Such disorders may include motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. Regarding engineering applications, our brain-inspired models allow very flexible and adaptive behaviour, which can surpass current robot control systems that rely on either fixed action sequences or learned stimulus-response reactions. Another area of application may be automated character animation in computer generated films and games