Robustness, flexibility and sensitivity in a multifunctional motor control model
Motor systems that generate rhythmic motor patterns (e.g. walking, swimming, swallowing) must adapt to perturbations and changing conditions both within and outside the body. We refer to the ability of a system to maintain performance despite perturbations as “robustness,” and the ability of a system to deploy alternative strategies that improve fitness as “flexibility.” Different classes of motor pattern-generating circuits yield dynamics with differential sensitivities to sensory feedback and parameter variation. Depending on the task, and the type of perturbation, high sensitivity can either facilitate or hinder performance. Using a neuromechanical model of the feeding apparatus of the mollusk Aplysia californica as a concrete example, my talk will explore the roles of intrinsic dynamics and sensory feedback in allowing multiphasic motor pattern generation to be both robust and flexible.