University of Birmingham University of Birmingham
parrot nick yog cpl

Multi-disciplinary Research on Natural and Artificial Cognition
Including Intelligent Robots
University of Birmingham, UK

Centre for Computational Neuroscience & Cognitive Robotics

Cognitive Neuroscience Computational Robotics Seminars 2009-10



It is often thought that research on robotics is a purely engineering activity. However it is increasingly realised that designing robots that can act sensibly independently and in novel situations (e.g. repairing a space station or doing underwater exploration) will require development of new forms of artificial intelligence that come much closer to natural intelligence, as found in humans and many other animals. That will require multidisciplinary cooperation, as acknowledged in the multi-million euro Cognitive Systems initiative of the European Union (see links below).

This web site is an attempt to draw together some of the multidisciplinary threads that already exist in this university, which could, by collaborating more closely both enhance the scientific and philosophical study of intelligence, both natural and artificial and contribute to major engineering advances.

Research and teaching is in progress in various areas of the university, on topics related to:

Search Campus Web Site Using Google

Related events
(Past events are listed below)

2009 Will be the Year of Darwin:

Watch this space.

Bio-Inspired Modelling and Design Workshop,
Tuesday 22nd July 2008 starting 13:00
UG40, School of Computer Science

Cake Talk Series
OBIMOD Open-ended Bio-Inspired Modelling and Design Workshop


Strongly bio-inspired models and design procedures draw inspiration from biological processes, physiological mechanisms, neural dynamics and other complex phenomena observed in nature. Unfortunately, bio-inspired notions are often quickly applied to and validated on optimisation problems, resulting in a short-term struggle for performance that forsakes the original inspiring principles. Releasing the focus from the performance, OBIMOD researchers enjoy more freedom to explore original ideas, novel approaches and devote more attention to the inspiring sources. Open-ended bio-inspired modelling and design investigate ideas like gene regulatory networks and artificial genomes, developmental processes, scalable and novel neural systems, generative, robust, fault-tolerant and immune systems, artiticial behaviour and Alife, learning, memory and other.

This workshop was organised to bring together OBIMOD researchers at the School of Computer Science.

Please note that the following programme is not final.


13:00 - 13:05 Andrea Soltoggio - Introduction

13:05 - 13:30 Ben Jones - Evolving Functional Symmetry in a Three Dimensional Model of an Elongated Organism

Abstract - In any organism having a nervous system, a rich coupling exists between the nervous system and the organism's body-plan (think of a jelly fish compared to a flatworm). During evolution, this coupling evolved in a complex fashion resulting in a divergence of body-plan symmetries. In a given fish-swimming type niche, bilateral symmetry is advantageous to the fish, but the coupling underpinning this advantage is less clear. To make it clearer, we constructed a model of an eel-like organism and evolved both the motor configuration (which we considered to be part of the body-plan) in concert with the nervous system (nb, a ctrnn controller). Although the modelled `organism' is no trout, simulated evolution typically finds motor configurations that are bilaterally symmetric. This signifies an importance in bilateral functionality allowing us to clarify the overall advantage of bilateral symmetry for long elongated organisms.

13:30 - 13:50 Victor Landassuri - A new Approach for Incremental Modular Neural Networks in Time Series Forecasting

Abstract - Modular Neural Networks have been used to solve complex problems in a reduced amount of time, to obtain better performance on a range of tasks, and to provide a better understanding of the human brain. In this talk I will present the first stage of my research into Modular Neural Networks where the evolution of them allows an incremental architecture for solving more than one problem. The basis for developing that approach is described with some related issues in Time Series Forecasting using an Evolutionary Algorithm called EPNet.

13:50 - 14:10 Ed Robinson - tba Abstract - tba

14:10 - 14:35 Thomas Miconi - Fitness Transmission: A Genealogic Signature of Adaptive Evolution

Abstract - We introduce Fitness Transmission as a simple statistical signature of adaptive evolution within a system. Fitness transmission is the correlation between the fitness of parents and children, where fitness is evaluated after the number of grandchildren, suitably normalised. This measure is a direct calculation based on a genealogical record, rather than on genetic or phenotypic observation. We point out that the Bedau-Packard statistics of evolutionary activity cannot be used as a reliable system-wide signature of adaptive evolution, because they can produce positive signals when applied to certain ``random'', non-evolutionary systems. We apply fitness transmission to simple evolutionary algorithms (as well as neutral equivalents) and demonstrate its capacity to accurately detect the presence or absence of Darwinian evolution.

14:35 - 14:50 Break

14:50 - 15:05 Andrea Soltoggio - An Introduction to Analog Genetic Encoding (AGE)

Abstract - In biology, phenotypical features derive from a complex interactions of genes. Analog Genetic Encoding (AGE) is an encoding method developed at EPFL based on the idea of an artificial genome. AGE has been used to encode gene regulatory networks (GNRs), electronic circuits and other graphs like neural networks. The main features of AGE and how-tos will be covered in a short introduction.

15:05 - 15:25 Chris Bowers - An Introduction to Computational Embryogeny

Abstract - Developmental processes clearly have a huge influence on biological systems yet the complex dynamics they introduce are poorly understood. In this talk I will discuss the relationship between developmental process and evolution utilising a simple computational model of embryogeny.

15:25 - 15: 40 Victor Landassuri - Special talk - Intelligent Recycling Station, a project for Imagine cup 2008

Abstract - In this talk I am going to describe an interactive device that helps with the task of recycling materials, reducing objects and trash in a home scenario. The project was developed with other two partners to participate in a Microsoft's competition called "Imagine cup 2008" in the embedded development category. Even though we started the project as hobby, we could pass to the final, so I will state too, some remarkable aspects for anyone interested in participate in this kind of competitions.

15:40 - 16:00 Andrea Soltoggio - Advantages of Neuromodulated Plasticity

Abstract - Neuromodulation is considered a key factor for learning and memory in biology. We test this hypothesis in artificial neural networks by introducing a new type of neuron: modulatory neurons. Simulated evolution designs neural control networks for learning problems. The results show that modulatory neurons help achieving better learning. We conclude that modulatory neurons evolve autonomously in the proposed learning tasks, allowing for increased learning and memory capabilities.

16:00 : Late breaking talks and discussions

For more information on this seminar visit:

University of Birmingham Graduate School
Series in Computational Approaches to Biological Research

Open to all PhD students in all schools at the University of Birmingham, these workshops provide an introduction to computer modelling in a number of areas of biology.

PDF flyer

All sessions will be held at 2pm in the locations described.

Links to activities around the university
(Likely to be reorganised)

Items to be added:

Adding Personal or Group Web Pages

It will probably be useful to have a separate list of links to personal web pages of people in this University doing research and teaching in this general area.

If you have a personal or project or group or topic web page that you would like to have included, please email giving

Email List

If there is enough interest I'll create two email lists associated with this web site, both archived (e.g. using mailman): If you wish to be added to either or both, please write to specifying which of the lists you wish to be included in.

Open Access Archives

Some schools at this university have web pages with substantial amounts of material freely available on line.

The University has now set up a facility to allow everyone to make research papers freely available online

The University of Birmingham Research Archive [UBIRA]

Open Access Policy

Some recent events

Postgraduate Cognitive Neuroscience Conference 2008

The conference will be held on 26th and 27th June at the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Programme details

Please contact if you wish to attend.

What limits the biological evolution of cultural evolution?
Modelling modularity in evolution and learning

Seminar: Friday 12th June 2008, 4pm
Joanna Bryson, Joanna Bryson,
Department of Computer Science, University of Bath

School of Computer Science, room UG40

Further details, including abstract

Seminars in the school of computer science

Theory of Mind Workshop June 5-6
Law Building Moot Room 2.19

Fourteen talks by students from all round the country who work in Theory of Mind and related areas.
Details (PDF)

Seminar on 29th May 4.15 about EU Cognitive Systems Initiative
School of Computer Science, Room UG 40

Dr. Colette Maloney,
Head of EC Unit, INFSO E5 Cognitive Systems and Robotics
Cognitive Systems and Robotics initiative (FP6/FP7)
An informal discussion of how best to achieve long range objectives of the EU's Cognitive Systems initiative. She will also be willing to answer questions about the current initiative and coming calls for proposals.
She will attempt to to highlight strengths and limitations of what is already happening and some of the ideas that have been proposed for overcoming the limitations.

NB: This is a highly interdisciplinary initiative and includes several branches of engineering (mechanical, electrical, software, AI) as well as psychology, neuroscience, biology, linguistics and also social sciences and philosophy.

This talk will not primarily be about what funding is available and how to apply for it but about research issues. However she is willing to answer questions from people considering applying for funding.

See further information above


Updated: 18 Dec 2009
Maintained by Aaron Sloman ( and Nick Hawes
School of Computer Science
and Jackie Chappell
School of Biosciences
The University of Birmingham
In collaboration with others.