Reinforcement active learning in the vibrissae system: Optimal object localization

Goren Gordon*, Nimrod Dorfman, Ehud Ahissar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rats move their whiskers to acquire information about their environment. It has been observed that they palpate novel objects and objects they are required to localize in space. We analyze whisker-based object localization using two complementary paradigms, namely, active learning and intrinsic-reward reinforcement learning. Active learning algorithms select the next training samples according to the hypothesized solution in order to better discriminate between correct and incorrect labels. Intrinsic-reward reinforcement learning uses prediction errors as the reward to an actor-critic design, such that behavior converges to the one that optimizes the learning process. We show that in the context of object localization, the two paradigms result in palpation whisking as their respective optimal solution. These results suggest that rats may employ principles of active learning and/or intrinsic reward in tactile exploration and can guide future research to seek the underlying neuronal mechanisms that implement them. Furthermore, these paradigms are easily transferable to biomimetic whisker-based artificial sensors and can improve the active exploration of their environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-115
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Curiosity loop
  • Intrinsic reward
  • Palpation
  • Perception
  • Whiskers


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