CENTRAL PATTERN GENERATOR

MOUSE BEHAVIOURAL RHYTHMS, 2012

CLAY LACEFIELD, GREG WAYNE & DREW BAUGHMAN [US]

Among the variety of forms that oscillations take in nature, living organisms make frequent use of rhythms and feedback to coordinate their internal state, as well as to respond to periodic changes in the world around them. Animals have developed complex nervous systems to organise such feedback loops and couple them with their environments. Rhythms and loops in the vertebrate nervous system exist at every scale of structure. At the level of molecules, a neuron’s membrane is re-polarised by ion channels after it fires; at the level of neural circuits, neurons feed back into the spinal ‘central pattern generator’ that produces oscillatory muscle movements for locomotion. Cycles continue to proliferate on macroscopic scales of behavior. At each level, these recurrent systems have their own characteristic durations and frequencies, with rhythms at one time scale nested inside the cycles of another.

In this installation a microcosm of the behavioral patterns present in our lives is created by observing an animal as it goes through its daily cycles. This paradigm consists of a mouse in a living space containing a variety of modules, each housing an activity that the animal periodically performs either by necessity (sleeping, drinking water, or reaching for pellets of food), or by choice (‘games’ of interactive visual enrichment). The location and activities of the mouse, tracked through motion capture and with a variety of sensors, will modulate sets of tones and be visualised graphically to show how the rhythms interact at different time scales. By measuring and transforming these oscillations, a symphony of continuously interacting voices is presented, making tangible the different rhythms and cycles of which we are composed, produced by our own central pattern generator, our nervous system.

CENTRAL PATTERN GENERATOR Photo: “Video frame characterizing patterns of mouse locomotion, overlayed with neural signals showing rhythmic neural activity in the animal’s brain”
CENTRAL PATTERN GENERATOR Photo: “Video frame characterizing patterns of mouse locomotion, overlayed with neural signals showing rhythmic neural activity in the animal’s brain”

About the artist: 

The creators of Central Pattern Generator study how different patterns of neural activity in the brain coordinate diverse senses and behaviors in mice in the Neuroscience Department at Columbia University in New York. Clay Lacefield is a postdoctoral scientist studying neural mechanisms of selective attention in rodents and has collaborated in projects shown at ArtBots and in Make magazine. Greg Wayne is a graduate student whose work focuses on using neural networks as artificial intelligence control systems for real world devices. Drew Baughman has master’s degrees in Creative Writing and Biotechnology and experiments with multimedia installations.

CLAY LACEFIELD, GREG WAYNE & DREW BAUGHMAN [US]