Braitenberg Vehicles as Computational Tools for Research in Neuroscience

Danish Shaikh*, Ignacio Rañó

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Valentino Braitenberg reported his seminal thought experiment in 1984 using reactive automatons or vehicles with relatively simple sensorimotor connections as models for seemingly complex cognitive processes in biological brains. Braitenberg's work, meant as a metaphor for biological life encompassed a deep knowledge of and served as an analogy for the multitude of neural processes and pathways that underlie animal behavior, suggesting that seemingly complex behavior may arise from relatively simple designs. Braitenberg vehicles have been adopted in robotics and artificial life research for sensor-driven navigation behaviors in robots, such as localizing sound and chemical sources, orienting toward or away from current flow under water etc. The neuroscience community has benefitted from applying Braitenberg's bottom-up approach toward understanding analogous neural mechanisms underpinning his models of animal behavior. We present a summary of the latest studies of Braitenberg vehicles for bio-inspired navigation and relate the results to experimental findings on the neural basis of navigation behavior in animals. Based on these studies, we motivate the important role of Braitenberg vehicles as computational tools to inform research in behavioral neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number565963
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 16. Sep 2020


  • behavioral neuroscience
  • Braitenberg vehicles
  • computational neuroethology
  • navigation
  • tropotaxis


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