Hartmann, Mitra, PhD

Current Research

Current Research

Dr. Hartmann’s research focuses on the neurobiology of active sensing behaviors, and on the development of bio-inspired computational models and hardware to test candidate neurobiological algorithms. Our laboratory is particularly interested in how sensory feedback is used in real time to guide motor activity, and how movement enables sensory acquisition and perception. We work with a model system that uses sensory feedback to modulate fundamentally periodic activity: rat whisking behavior.

Rats, as nocturnal, burrowing animals, use rhythmic movements of their whiskers (vibrissae) to tactually explore their environment and nearby objects. Using their whiskers, rats can extract information about the spatial properties of objects, including size, shape, and texture. The long-term goal is to gain insight into the algorithms by which the nervous system encodes sensory information to efficiently construct spatial representations of objects.

Current projects in the laboratory include:

Experimental and theoretical characterization of the flexural (bending) properties of rat whiskers under both static and dynamic conditions. The goal is to develop a quantitative description of how whiskers interact with objects, and thus what sensory information may be transduced back to receptors at the base of the whisker.

Characterization of the relationship between head and whisker movements. We are using high speed videography to determine how head and whisker movements might be coordinated to enhance the ability of the rat to extract consistent spatial information.

Construction of an artificial rat “head and whiskers” in hardware, in part to test hypotheses generated in projects (1) and (2). The goal is to develop an active tactile sensing system that can accurately extract information about an object’s spatial properties, for example, curvature.

Investigation of how the cancellation of expected sensory feedback can aid in sensory acquisition and discrimination.



Hartmann, Mitra, PhD





Office Phone



Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering


Tech Building D-155 Evanston

Areas of Research

Learning & Memory, Motor Control, Movement & Rehabilitation

NU Scholar Profile


Recent Publications on PubMed