Self-Organized Criticality, Plasticity and Sensorimotor Coupling. Explorations with a Neurorobotic Model in a Behavioural Preference Task
Bedia, Manuel G.
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PLoS One 10(2) : (2015) // e0117465
During the last two decades, analysis of 1/f noise in cognitive science has led to a considerable progress in the way we understand the organization of our mental life. However, there is still a lack of specific models providing explanations of how 1/f noise is generated in coupled brain-body-environment systems, since existing models and experiments typically target either externally observable behaviour or isolated neuronal systems but do not address the interplay between neuronal mechanisms and sensorimotor dynamics. We present a conceptual model of a minimal neurorobotic agent solving a behavioural task that makes it possible to relate mechanistic (neurodynamic) and behavioural levels of description. The model consists of a simulated robot controlled by a network of Kuramoto oscillators with homeostatic plasticity and the ability to develop behavioural preferences mediated by sensorimotor patterns. With only three oscillators, this simple model displays self-organized criticality in the form of robust 1/f noise and a wide multifractal spectrum. We show that the emergence of self-organized criticality and 1/f noise in our model is the result of three simultaneous conditions: a) non-linear interaction dynamics capable of generating stable collective patterns, b) internal plastic mechanisms modulating the sensorimotor flows, and c) strong sensorimotor coupling with the environment that induces transient metastable neurodynamic regimes. We carry out a number of experiments to show that both synaptic plasticity and strong sensorimotor coupling play a necessary role, as constituents of self-organized criticality, in the generation of 1/f noise. The experiments also shown to be useful to test the robustness of 1/f scaling comparing the results of different techniques. We finally discuss the role of conceptual models as mediators between nomothetic and mechanistic models and how they can inform future experimental research where self-organized critically includes sensorimotor coupling among the essential interaction-dominant process giving rise to 1/f noise.