Our research is focused on understanding the functional architecture of the vertebrate brain. In particular, we investigate the role of integrative brain sub-systems such as the basal ganglia and brainstem reticular formation in action selection, and aim to understand the brain as a layered control architecture. This involves us in studies of sensorimotor coordination (for instance, in the primate oculomotor system and in the control of orienting in rodents). Our research methodologies include computational neuroscience modelling, ethological analyses of animal behaviour, bio-inspired and biomimetic robotics, and psychophysical investigations of human cognition.
A core research methodology at the ABRG is theoretical and computational modelling of neural systems. We develop models at all different levels from biophysical to systems-level. The group has a long track record of investigating the basal ganglia. We develop models of BG also in embodied systems (see below).
Since 2003, the group has been involved in researching active touch. This began with our involvement in the Whiskerbot Project which investigated the operation of sensory whiskers or vibrissae and led to the development of our in-house facilities for the study of small animal behaviour. We study whisking in rodents and marsupials, and have built up substantial expertise and infrastructure for observations of freely-behaving small mammals both in the laboratory and in the field. More recently, we have begun to study touch in primates as well. This research theme has led to the inauguration of a new research group, the Active Touch Laboratory at Sheffield (ATL@S).
The group has always used robots as embodied models of neural processing, but more recently we have been investigating active sensing through the use of bespoke robots, in particular mobile whiskered robots through our collaboration with The Bristol Robotics Laboratory.