Benny Hochner : Embodied organization of the unique motor control of the octopus’s flexible and ‘strange’ body

Friday, 4 September, 2015 - 09:30 to 11:00
Department of Neurobiology, Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, Jerusalem,Israel. 
I will review current knowledge on the unique motor control system of the octopus. A comprehensive assessment of our findings has suggested to us that due to its soft body with its eight long, flexible arms and unusual morphology, the octopus is a most suitable and exceptionally instructive system for demonstrating that ‘embodied organization’ is not only an important concept for designing autonomous robots (Pfeiffer, R. et al., Science 2007), but is also an important constraint in the biological evolution of highly adaptive and efficient motor control mechanisms. This is especially apparent in animals like the octopus that have evolved from mollusks with soft bodies protected by a shell and hardly moving into highly active maneuverable predators. I will show that the research on motor behavior of the octopus has provided vivid biological demonstrations of concepts like: embodied organization; embodied intelligence; emergence; self-organization; morphological computation; reshaping. I will also briefly discuss the organization of the vertical lobe (VL) of the octopus and cuttlefish. The VL is an area in the cephalopod brain mediating the complex learning and memory of these intelligent molluscs. The VL networks are organized as very large but simple ‘fan-out fan-in’ feed-forward classification networks. Analysis of their physiology properties  and computational capabilities suggests that self-organization is an important principle in the evolution and development of neural networks.