Extended Neural Metastability in an Embodied Model of Sensorimotor Coupling

This paper is an extension of some of the results worked during my PhD thesis. We investigate how the source of metastability in cognitive activity is not necessarily restricted to the action of neural circuits alone, but in some circumstances it can be generated from the sensorimotor coupling between an agent’s brain and its environment.

Aguilera M, Bedia MG and Barandiaran XE (2016) Extended Neural Metastability in an Embodied Model of Sensorimotor Coupling. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 10:76. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2016.00076

Using a robotic simulated agent and information theoretical tools we are able to show how (1) the bidirectional coupling between agent and environment brings the system closer to a regime of criticality and triggers the emergence of additional metastable states which are not found in the brain in isolation but extended to the whole system of sensorimotor interaction, (2) the synaptic plasticity of the agent is fundamental to sustain open structures in the neural controller of the agent flexibly engaging and disengaging different behavioral patterns that sustain sensorimotor metastable states, and (3) these extended metastable states emerge when the agent generates an asymmetrical circular loop of causal interaction with its environment, in which the agent responds to variability of the environment at fast timescales while acting over the environment at slow timescales, suggesting the constitution of the agent as an autonomous entity actively modulating its sensorimotor coupling with the world.


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PhD thesis defence – Interaction Dynamics and Autonomy in Cognitive Systems

Last week I defended my PhD dissertation entitled ‘Interaction Dynamics and Autonomy in Cognitive Systems’. It was a beautiful and intense experience for closing four years of work. The thesis was examined by Ricard Solé, Ezequiel di Paolo and Seth Bullock, which provided several points of discussion for a rich and stimulating debate about the contributions of the dissertation and lines of further development.

I should thank Manuel Bedia, Xabier Barandiaran and Francisco Serón for their extraordinary work as supervisors and collaborators, as well as many other people that has supported the work developed in this dissertation.

The complete dissertation can be freely downloaded from here:

iconAlso, you can check the video of the defence and the slides of the presentation:


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Multitudinous identities: a qualitative and network analysis of the 15M collective identity

Some time ago I published a paper with Arnau Monterde, Antonio Calleja-López, Xabier Barandiaran y John Postill about collective identities in the 15M and related networked movements. We argue that the 15M movement  in  Spain  demands conceptual and methodological innovations. Its rapid emergence, endurance, diversity, multifaceted development and adaptive capacity, posit numerous theoretical and methodological challenges. We show how the use of structural and dynamic analysis of interaction networks (in combination with qualitative data) is a valuable tool to track the shape and change of what we term the ‘systemic dimension’  of collective identities in network-movements. We show how the 15M movement displays a specific form of systemic collective identity we call ‘multitudinous identity’ , characterized by social transversality and internal heterogeneity, as well as a transient and distributed leadership driven by action initiatives. Our approach attends to the role of distributed interaction and transient leadership at a mesoscale level of organizational dynamics, which may contribute to contemporary discussions of collective identity in network-movements.

Monterde, A., Calleja-López, A., Aguilera, M., Barandiaran, X. E., & Postill, J. (2015). Multitudinous identities: a qualitative and network analysis of the 15M collective identity. Information, Communication and Society, doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043315

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Self-Organized Criticality, Plasticity and Sensorimotor Coupling. Explorations with a Neurorobotic Model in a Behavioural Preference Task

It’s been some time since I started to develop a model of relational in a robot’s oscillatory neural controller. For a couple of years I have been intermittently working in a simulated agent in a behavioural preference task controlled by a homeostatic oscillator network, in which the relational variable that is kept constant is the phase relation between one oscillator and its surroundings.

During the last year I have been working in different results around this model, and some of the first results are already published in this paper in PLOS ONE. In this paper (written together with Xabier Barandiaran, Manuel Bedia and Paco Serón), we analyse long-range correlations in the form of 1/f noise and self-organized criticality in the agent’s behaviour, and its relation with synaptic plasticity and sensorimotor coupling. We show that the emergence of self-organized criticality and 1/ƒ 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. When one of these conditions is not met, a robust critical regime is unable to emerge.

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Quantifying long-range correlations and 1/f patterns in a minimal experiment of social interaction

Bedia, M. G., Aguilera, M., Gomez, T., Larrode, D. G., & Seron, F. (2014). Quantifying long-range correlations and 1/f patterns in a minimal experiment of social interaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1281. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01281

Together with Manuel Bedia, Tomás Gómez, David Larrode and Francisco Serón we just published a new paper presenting our results in applying 1/f and long-range correlation measures in social interaction dynamics. The paper is based on the Perceptual Crossing experiment, a minimal experimental setting reducing social interaction to one dimension. We find that human-human interaction presents a signature of long-range correlations not present when humans interact with artificial agents. This difference in signatures is not found between the individual behaviour of humans and artificial agents, suggesting that the qualitative difference of genuine social engagement lies in a shared space of interaction rather than in individual behaviour.

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Technopolitics in the Spanish 15M movement: new models of self-organizing political action of connected multitudes

I just came back from attending to the ANN SONIC Conference at Los Angeles. I was invited together with Javier Toret by Manuel Castells to present some of the results we have been developing during the last year at the DatAnalysis15M research network.

We presented an analysis of how new large-scale models of social/political organization that have emerged during the last years around the Spanish 15M movement. We described two different types of large-scale organization: a first phase where crowds learn to strategically use social media and other digital tools to modulate collective action, massive emotional contagion and focus of swarm attention; and a second phase where some parts of the network start developing a strong functional specialization (e.g. the PAH network focused on foreclosure evictions, Marea Verde focused in public education, etc.), creating a ecosystem which gives place to the emerge of a long-term robust network organization based on transient moments synchronization, in a similar way of how the dynamic core hypothesis suggest neural self-organization works.

You can see here the slides of our presentation here.

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The situated HKB model

Together with Manuel Bedia, Xabier Barandiaran and Bruno Santos I just published in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience a paper entitled ‘The situated HKB model: how sensorimotor spatial coupling can alter oscillatory brain dynamics’. This paper explores the role of a situated and embodied interaction with the world in the patterns of neural oscillation. This is explored in what we call the situated HKB model: a robotic model that performs a gradient climbing task and whose “brain” is modeled by the HKB equation. With this model we can precisely quantify and qualitatively describe how the properties of the system, when studied in coupled conditions, radically change in a manner that cannot be deduced from the decoupled ‘brain’ alone.

Aguilera, M, Bedia, M.G., Santos, B.A., Barandiaran, X.E. (2013). The Situated HKB Model: how sensorimotor spatial coupling can alter oscillatory brain dynamics. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 7 (2013): 117. doi:10.3389/fncom.2013.00117.

https://i1.wp.com/c431376.r76.cf2.rackcdn.com/46981/fncom-07-00117-HTML/image_m/fncom-07-00117-g006.jpg        https://i2.wp.com/c431376.r76.cf2.rackcdn.com/46981/fncom-07-00117-HTML/image_m/fncom-07-00117-g010.jpg

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ECAL 2013: Political Self-Organization in Twitter + Ultrastable CTRNNs

I just got back from the 12th European Conference on Artificial Life, where a presented two different contributions. As well, I attended to some very interesting contributions. One of them was the ‘Artificial Life in Massive Data Flow‘ workshop, where there was presented a very interesting perspective about analyzing huge amounts of data with vast number of dimensions from a complex systems perspective, beyond the simplifications of ‘Big Data’ perspectives.

My first contribution, Quantifying Political Self-Organization in Social Media. Fractal patterns in the Spanish 15M movement on Twitter, with Ignacion Morer, Xabier Barandiaran and Manuel Bedia, was based in the work we have been doing with the Datanalysis15M research network. We have tried to quantify the levels of political self-organization in Twitter data related with the 15M movement by characterizing bursts of self-organized criticality.

The second contribution, Analysis of ultrastability in small dynamical recurrent neural networks, with Eduardo Izquierdo and Randall Beer, is a very interesting research line Eduardo is developing exploring some issues about implementing Ashby’s Ultrastability in a biologically plausible way. I had the opportunity to collaborate with him for this paper during my research visit at Indiana University.

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Nuevo proyecto de fin de carrera – trabajo de fin de máster: Synco 2.0

Publicamos una nueva oferta de proyecto de fin de carrera – trabajo de fin de máster, inspirado en el trabajo de Stafford Beer en el Chile de Allende:

Synco 2.0: redes de organización social cibernética

En 1971 el científico británico Stafford Beer se trasladó al Chile de Salvador Allende con un encargo muy particular: reorganizar la economía chilena según los principios de la cibernética, la teoría de control y la teoría de sistemas. Sus ideas se plasmaron en el “proyecto Synco”, con el que Beer y su equipo de ingenieros chilenos, desarrollaron una inmensa red de teletipos conectados a un ordenador central que procesaba y analizaba la información. El objetivo era convertir el entramado socio-económico del país en un sistema auto-regulado, en el que las diferentes partes del sistema funcionaran de forma autónoma permitiendo la posibilidad de una intervención estatal en el caso de alguna de ellas se saliera de los límites de viabilidad marcados. En sólo dos años el proyecto Synco promovió sustanciales mejoras en el funcionamiento económico del país, aspirando a diseñar a largo plazo un sistema que regulara la totalidad de la economía y sociedad chilenas, incluidos mecanismos de participación democrática y el cuidado de la población. Desgraciadamente, tras el golpe militar de Pinochet en 1973, Synco fue abortado irrevocablemente, frustrando uno de los proyectos políticos más avanzados de la época en el mundo.

Formalmente, lo que Stafford Beer pretendió fue desarrollar e implementar un “modelo de sistema viable” que se inspirase en los principios que hacen un organismo sobrevivir: la combinación de un centro de control (cerebro) con diversas partes con un alto nivel de autonomía en sus funciones básicas (por ejemplo, el sistema inmunológico). Este proyecto trata de recuperar algunas de las brillantes ideas plasmadas en Synco, y desarrollar modelos e implementaciones informáticas que incorporen y actualicen los mecanismos cibernéticos originales. El objetivo es crear una plataforma que permita testear estos modelos en casos reales de plataformas ciudadanas surgidas a partir del 15M, inspirados en ideas originales del proyecto Synco y otras experiencias de organización social y política distribuida como el Partido Pirata, las redes de Anonymous o el 15M. Para realizar el trabajo se combinarán técnicas de Minería y extracción de datos, junto con técnicas para el análisis en teoría de redes.

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Nuevos proyectos de fin de carrera – trabajos de fin de máster

Para este curso Manuel Bedia y yo sacamos dos proyectos de fin de carrera / trabajos de fin de máster para alumnos de la Universidad de Zaragoza.

Desenmarañando el trazo del artista: análisis dinámico de la interacción humano-herramienta (en colaboración con la Escuela de Arte de Zaragoza)


¿Estás interaccionando conmigo? Estudio experimental de patrones de interacción social (en colaboración con el Hospital Clínico de Zaragoza -Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón y la Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad de las Illes Balears).


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