Keynote Speakers

The embodied organization of the octopus motor control
Benny Hochner
Department of Neurobiology, Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

In my talk I will review previous and recent findings on the unique motor control system of the octopus. A comprehensive assessment of our findings have led us to conceptualized the idea that the octopus, because of its soft body with eight long and flexible arms and unusual morphology, is an exceptionally good instructive system to show that ‘embodied-organization’ is not only an important concept for designing autonomous robots (Pfeiffer, R et al 2007), but it is likely also an important constraint in the evolution of highly adaptive and efficient motor control mechanisms. This is especially apparent in animals like the octopus that have evolved from a soft bodied, shell protected, hardly moving mollusks into highly active maneuverable predators. Indeed, I will show that the research of octopus motor behavior is a vivid biological demonstration of concepts like: embodied organization; embodied intelligence; emergence; self-organization; morphological computation; reshaping; and even “Intelligence without representation” (Brooks 1991).

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Prof. Benny Hochner studied Neurobiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (PhD 1983) and did his postdoctoral training with Prof. Eric Kandel (Nobel Laureate for Medicine, 2000) at Columbia University. He returned to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a Research Fellow at Otto Loewi Center and later became Independent researcher at the department of Neurobiology. Currently, he is a Professor of Neurobiology at the Department of Neurobiology, Institute of Life Sciences of the Hebrew University. He is the Principal Investigator of the Octopus Group of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prof. Hochner is involved in octopus arms research as inspiration for robotics since 1994. His research was supported by the US Navy and DARPA until 2006 and by the Israel Science Foundation. In parallel, Prof. Hochner studies the neurobiology of learning and memory in the octopus. During this time Prof. Hochner published, as a senior author, 35 papers and reviews on these subjects in high ranking journals including Nature, Science, Current Biology Journal of Neuroscience. More recently he was involved in European Community EP7 Projects OCTOPUS, which aimed at the development of novel design principles and technologies for a new generation soft-bodied robots, and the STIFF-FLOP Project that aimed at the development of a flexible robotic manipulator for surgical operations.

From the Fingers to the Brain
Roland Johansson
Department of Physiology, Umeå University, Sweden

The populations of tactile afferent neurons that innervate the inside of the hand signal the transformations of soft tissues that occur when the hand interacts with objects, and thereby provide moment-to-moment information about the contact state between objects and the hands. My talk will address the encoding and use of tactile afferent signals in object manipulation tasks. In particular, I intend to discuss how the organization of the peripheral tactile apparatus might promote the rapid and automatic processing of fine form tactile information required to control the fingertips in fine dexterity tasks.

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Prof. Roland Johansson is a Professor of Physiology since 1988, and obtained his medical doctor degree (M.D.) in 1978 and his PhD in 1981. Prof. Johansson is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has been chosen for an “Excellence Grant” from the Swedish research council, and is the recipient of the  Corpus Student Union Pedagogical Prize (for doctoral education) in 2000, the Göran Gustafsson Prize in Medicine in 1996, the Eric K. Fernström Prize, Umeå, 1983, and the Mångberg Prize, Umeå, 1979.