Portland State University will join eight institutions as part of a new National Science Foundation-backed research team tasked with investigating how brains interact with their surrounding environment.
The team, known as NeuroNex: Communication, Coordination, and Control in Neuromechanical Systems (C3NS), received at total of $8 million in funding from the NSF over the next five years to conduct this research -- $901,000 of which was awarded to PSU. C3NS is one of four international interdisciplinary teams receiving $50 million in NSF funding.
NeuroNex was created with the objective to establish international research partnerships and accelerate the next generation of neuroscience. The teams, which include 70 researchers from the U.S. the United Kingdom and Germany, will develop new theories and tools to better understand the brain.
"At Portland State, we will be testing theories of mammalian neural system organization on simulated animals and on our robot, Muscle Mutt, with close collaborators at Case Western Reserve University, Northwestern University, Emory University, and the University of Jena (Germany)," said Alexander Hunt, NeuroNex co-principal investigator and head of PSU's Agile and Adaptive Robotics lab.
PSU will also work collaboratively to develop a modeling framework synthesizing their knowledge with other researchers studying fruit flies and sea slugs as part of NeuroNex.
"This project seeks to understand how nervous systems of all animals provide effective control in the dynamic and uncertain environments in which we live," Hunt said.
The impacts of this research will have broad impacts on both health and robotics, Hunt said.
"By better understanding how the nervous system works, we will be able to better investigate motor disorders that disrupt locomotion and balance, such as Parkinson's," Hunt added. "For robotics, we will be able to apply what we learn to develop control systems with more adaptive behavior."