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Understanding mind, brain and behavior through constructing synthetic perceptive, emotive and cognitive systems.

UNDERSTAND   “What is perception, emotion, cognition, action and consciousness and how is it realized?” We want to "understand" the mind from an embodied and systemic perspective and to do that we resort to principles derived from brain and behavior. This approach will allow us to progress beyond reductionist methods and develop a new system level science and technology of mind. 

At the center of ‘understand’ is the Distributed Adaptive Control theory (DAC). DAC is a theory of mind and brain advanced to explain fundamental aspects of neuroscience and psychology, predict novel phenomena and generate biologically grounded control principles underlying innovative technologies. 

The projects based on DAC range from neuromorphic chips of the cerebellum interfaced to the biological cerebellum,to studies on decision-making and memory in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, to the neuronal mechanisms underlying uni-modal and multi- modal perception applied to mobile and humanoid robots. 

BUILD    The brain is intimately coupled to the body. Hence, we interface our models of the brain to artificial bodies: robots. We "build" neuronally constrained models of biological systems that govern the behavior of roving, flying and humanoid robots such as the iCub robot.

We use mixed reality technologies for the investigation of human behavior and experience. We probe complex human behavior such as cooperation, competition, navigation, memory and communication. In addition, these technologies themselves require new principles for perception, cognition and behavior that we develop based on our theoretical work and the DAC theory. 

The key infrastructure for this research is the eXperience Induction Machine (XIM) a human accessible ~30m^2 immersive space equipped with a large number of sensors and effectors. XIM is a pioneering scientific instrument that allows immersive and interactive data exploration and is enhanced with wearable, unobtrusive sensors capable of measuring human psychophysiological signals including EEG, ECG, EMG or GSR and wearable eye movement detection systems. 

XIM is also key for SPECS’ research in creativity in artificial and biological systems such as interaction, narrative content, dramaturgy and scenography. Studying creativity we address fundamental challenges in education, cultural heritage and the shaping of human experience

REPAIR    To understand a system means that you have the capability to repair it. Based on the DAC theory and with the use of virtual reality systems we have developed a revolutionary approach towards brain repair that focuses on the creation of appropriate stimulation and diagnostics protocols: the Rehabilitation Gaming System (RGS). RGS is in use for the treatment of stroke patients in a number of hospitals and health centers and is now being commercialized by the SPECS spin off company EODYNE (URL). Following this deductive medicine approach SPECS is investigating a range of brain pathologies where medical interventions are explicit validations of scientific predictions. SPECS’ activities demonstrate a commitment to build on science in the service of society and the advancement of the human condition.