Neural Circuit Architectural Priors for Embodied Control [article]

Nikhil X. Bhattasali, Anthony M. Zador, Tatiana A. Engel
2022 arXiv   pre-print
Artificial neural networks for simulated motor control and robotics often adopt generic architectures like fully connected MLPs. While general, these tabula rasa architectures rely on large amounts of experience to learn, are not easily transferable to new bodies, and have internal dynamics that are difficult to interpret. In nature, animals are born with highly structured connectivity in their nervous systems shaped by evolution; this innate circuitry acts synergistically with learning
more » ... ms to provide inductive biases that enable most animals to function well soon after birth and improve abilities efficiently. Convolutional networks inspired by visual circuitry have encoded useful biases for vision. However, it is unknown the extent to which ANN architectures inspired by neural circuitry can yield useful biases for other domains. In this work, we ask what advantages biologically inspired network architecture can provide in the context of motor control. Specifically, we translate C. elegans circuits for locomotion into an ANN model controlling a simulated Swimmer agent. On a locomotion task, our architecture achieves good initial performance and asymptotic performance comparable with MLPs, while dramatically improving data efficiency and requiring orders of magnitude fewer parameters. Our architecture is more interpretable and transfers to new body designs. An ablation analysis shows that principled excitation/inhibition is crucial for learning, while weight initialization contributes to good initial performance. Our work demonstrates several advantages of ANN architectures inspired by systems neuroscience and suggests a path towards modeling more complex behavior.
arXiv:2201.05242v1 fatcat:ehdp3cxbvrf3xp7kxcymwgjoem