Living beings come to this world equipped with skills that enable smooth and smart interactions with the environment. For instance, domestic chicks are spontaneously attracted to animate objects or flee away from fast looming stimuli at first sight, and tortoise hatchlings are attracted by face-like stimuli, similarly to what infants do. Other predispositions include specialised mechanisms for learning, such as the rapid affiliative responses developed in filial imprinting. Precocial species (e.g. chicks of the domestic fowl, tortoises) and insects are valuable models to conduct these studies.
Learning is central for our lives, from recognising social partners, to noticing similarities between objects and scenes, to remembering a song or a motor routine. The Prepared Minds lab investigates the mechanisms that support fast learning at the beginning of life (we use filial imprinting with chicks), in everyday life (chicks, insects and humans) and in refined, exquisite learners such as dancers (check the Dance project here).
Experimental work with biological agents inspires our modelling of artificial intelligence.
Artificial minds and robotics
Modelling how minds work can help us to build intelligent models. We are developing models of learning and generalisation, we are engaged in collaborative projects with the Advanced Robotics Centre @ QM to build a robotic chick to investigate social behaviour and attachment, and with the Centre4DigitalMusic to develop automated methods for acoustic feedback.
We also use artificial intelligence as a tool to refine data collection, video analysis, and detection/categorisation of behaviour.
Other research topics or interest
Asymmetries and lateralisation
Artificial grammar learning
Automated behavioural tracking: in human and non-human animals