A Neural Circuit for Acoustic Navigation combining Heterosynaptic and Non-synaptic Plasticity that learns Stable Trajectories

Publication: Research - peer-reviewArticle in proceedings

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Reactive spatial robot navigation in goal-directed tasks such as phonotaxis requires generating consistent and stable trajectories towards an acoustic target while avoiding obstacles. High-level goal-directed steering behaviour can steer a robot towards the target by mapping sound direction information to appropriate wheel velocities. However, low-level obstacle avoidance behaviour based on distance sensors may significantly alter wheel velocities and temporarily direct the robot away from the sound source, creating conflict between the two behaviours. How can such a conflict in reactive controllers be resolved in a manner that generates consistent and stable robot trajectories? We propose a neural circuit that minimises this conflict by learning sensorimotor mappings as neuronal transfer functions between the perceived sound direction and wheel velocities of a simulated non-holonomic mobile robot. These mappings constitute the high-level goal-directed steering behaviour. Sound direction information is obtained from a model of the lizard peripheral auditory system. The parameters of the transfer functions are learned via an online unsupervised correlation learning algorithm through interaction with obstacles in the form of low-level obstacle avoidance behaviour in the environment. The simulated robot is able to navigate towards a virtual sound source placed 3m away that continuously emits a tone of frequency 2.2 kHz, while avoiding randomly placed obstacles in the environment. We demonstrate through two independent trials in simulation that in both cases the neural circuit learns consistent and stable trajectories as compared to navigation without learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering Applications of Neural Networks
Number of pages12
Publication date31 May 2017
StateAccepted/In press - 31 May 2017
Event18th International Conference on Engineering Applications of Neural Networks - Athens, Greece


Conference18th International Conference on Engineering Applications of Neural Networks
LocationNovus City Hotel


  • behaviour-based robotics, reactive navigation, phonotaxis, lizard peripheral auditory system, synaptic plasticity, correlation-based learning