Animals must continuously adjust their behavior in response to complex and changing conditions. Most of their behavioral adjustments enhance their ability to survive and reproduce, and this ability is referred to as adaptive behavior. In the Chiel Lab at Case Western Reserve University, we ask: What are the mechanisms that underlie adaptive behavior?
Although this is a challenging question, it is likely to lead to a better understanding of how humans can adjust to changing conditions. Furthermore, understanding adaptive behavior may also suggest how to create devices that can help humans cope with a disease, such as a smart prosthetic hand to replace a damaged hand, or a brain/computer interface that might allow a stroke patient to communicate. Finally, a deeper understanding of adaptive behavior could lead to the creation of autonomous, flexible biologically-inspired robots that could function like animals or humans in complex natural environments.