The Neuromechanics of Insect Locomotion: How Cockroaches Run Fast and Stably Without (Much) Thought
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I will describe several models for running insects, from an energy-conserving biped, through a muscle-actuated hexapod driven by a neural central pattern generator, to a reduced phaseoscillator model that captures the dynamics of unperturbed gaits and of impulsive perturbations. I will argue that both simple models and large simulations are necessary to understand biological systems. The models show that piecewise-holonomic constraints due to intermittent foot contacts confer asymptotic stability on the feedforward system, while leg force sensors modulate motor outputs to mitigate large perturbations. Phase response curves and coupling functions help explain reflexive feedback mechanisms. The talk will draw on joint work with Einat Fuchs, Robert Full, Raffaele Ghigliazza, Raghu Kukillaya, Josh Proctor, John Schmitt, and Justin Seipel. Research supported by NSF and the J. Insley Blair Pyne Fund of Princeton University.