Co-Evolution of Neural and Morphological Development for Grasping in Changing Environments
It is believed that evolution of the nervous system is closely coupled with evolution of the body-plan. To verify this hypothesis, much work has been done to investigate the evolution of nervous systems and morphology (body-shape) in a simulated environment. However, most existing studies in this area have limitations in one aspect or the other. First, it is either assumed that the body shape is fixed when a nervous system is evolved to control the body, or that the controller is fixed when the morphology is subject to evolution. Second, many models do not take into account the development process of the nervous system and the morphology. Third, most work on morphology development does not include a neural control mechanism. As a result, these models target for a complex shape but do not have any behaviour. On the other hand, models that simulate neural development often do not have a body plan and therefore can only perform simple tasks.
The goal of this project is to investigate the mutual influences of the evolution a body shape (or part of body shape) and the evolution of a neural system that controls the body shape to perform certain tasks. In this way, we attempt to understand the basic principles in neural organization and the major transitions in evolution of nervous systems in biology, e.g., from radially symmetric to bilateral symmetric neural structure, and finally to a central nervous system. In contrast to existing work, this project focuses on the genetic regulation of neural and morphological development, wiring principles in the evolution of neural circuits and morphology of limbed organisms, and the influence of environmental changes on the co-evolution of neural and morphological development.