From sensory perception to action: Active sensing in insects

Abstract We are looking for a highly motivated candidate for a fully funded PhD project, studying active sensing strategies in cockroaches. Active exploratory movement is involved in a range of sensory guided behaviors. We seek to understand the mechanisms translating perception into movement, how movement facilitates sensing and how sensory perception and decision making are linked.

This project will employ techniques for neurophysiology, computer vision to track the motion and body posture, as the animals make movement decisions across a range of ecologically relevant contexts, and in the face of uncertainty, perceived risk and time constraints. In particular we will consider the mult-modal nature of decision-making (i.e. integrating olfactory and tactile cues) and the role of consistent inter-individual differences, previous experience and social context. Integrating behavioral experiments, neurophysiology (electrophysiology and calcium imaging) and computer simulations, this project aims to reveal the neural basis of decision-making in cockroaches. Understanding how natural systems implement fast and robust active sensing and decision-making will offer direct inspiration for new implementations in autonomous robots.

We welcome candidates from a wide range of backgrounds (biology, engineering science, physics, computer science), but it is essential that candidates are motivated to understand biological phenomena and are willing to learn programming language-based data analysis. Candidates also ideally already hold a Masters degree. The research will be undertaken in the department of Neurobiology, University of Konstanz.

The University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Society are equal opportunity employers that try to increase the number of women in research and teaching. As family-friendly institutions, they are committed to further the compatibility of work and family life and prefer disabled applicants when qualification is equal.

Keywords active sensing, sensory coding, insects, sensorimotor control, decision making

Main advisor Einat Couzin-Fuchs, University of Konstanz

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