NYU Tandon Researchers Develop Robotic Platform for Behavior Research

NYU Tandon Researchers Develop Robotic Platform for Behavior Research

A team of researchers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering have developed a robotic platform to assist in the study of freshwater fish behavior.

The researchers tested the robotic platform with zebrafish, a “highly versatile” freshwater fish that is “increasingly taking the place of more complex animals in behavioral studies,” according to a news release from the university. “Understanding their social behavior may help researchers explore mechanisms behind human disorders like anxiety, addiction, autism and schizophrenia.”

The researchers placed their robotic replica in a tank with live zebrafish and then measured the response of the zebrafish to the three-dimensional, moving replica, a two-dimensional moving replica, a static replica, a transparent replica and a static rod. The tests revealed that the zebrafish were attracted to the robotic replica that mimicked both the appearance and motion of a live zebrafish, and they lost that attraction when either of those characteristics differed.

In addition to making a discovery about the social behavior of zebrafish, the study “also significantly refined the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects,” said Maurizio Porfiri, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NYU Tandon and team lead on the research project.

Other members of the team that developed and tested the robotic platform include Tommaso Ruberto and Daniele Neri, researchers at NYU Tandon; Violet Mwaffo, a doctoral student; and Sukhgewanpreet Singh, an undergraduate student at the university.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Mitsui USA Foundation.

The researchers published their findings in a paper, “Zebrafish Response to a Robotic Replica in Three Dimensions,” in Royal Society Open Science.

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Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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