Variability in locomotor dynamics reveals the critical role of feedback in task control

Ismail Uyanik, Shahin Sefati, Sarah A. Stamper, Kyoung A. Cho, M. Mert Ankarali, Eric S. Fortune, Noah J. Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Animals vary considerably in size, shape, and physiological features across individuals, but yet achieve remarkably similar behavioral performances. We examined how animals compensate for morphophysiological variation by measuring the system dynamics of individual knifefish (Eigenmannia virescens) in a refuge tracking task. Kinematic measurements of Eigenmannia were used to generate individualized estimates of each fish’s locomotor plant and controller, revealing substantial variability between fish. To test the impact of this variability on behavioral performance, these models were used to perform simulated ‘brain transplants’—computationally swapping controllers and plants between individuals. We found that simulated closed-loop performance was robust to mismatch between plant and controller. This suggests that animals rely on feedback rather than precisely tuned neural controllers to compensate for morphophysiological variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere51219
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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