Eric Fortune, PhD, whose research interests focus on bio-cellular sensing, was recently appointed to the faculty of NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts in the Federated Department of Biological Sciences an associate professor.
Despite rapid advances in technological prowess, Fortune asserts that researchers neither understand how animals achieve the level of precision in their movements and coordination, nor can they build artificial systems, such as robots, which perform behaviors that are anywhere near as robust and reliable as animals.
In his laboratory, Fortune studies the mechanisms of animal behavior. His studies include careful measurements of natural animal behavior which, when coupled with sophisticated quantitative approaches, can be applied in brain experiments to discover the cellular mechanisms used by the brain to control behavior.
He believes that engineers can, in turn, translate these insights gained from the animal world into improved control systems for use in robots and prosthetic devices.
Fortune’s research was recently revolutionized by exciting results from investigation of the neurophysiological basis of cooperation in a unique species of Andean songbird — the plain-tailed wren. His work, published in Science, demonstrates that a premotor neuronal circuit encodes the cooperative output of a pair of duetting birds rather than each individual’s own, autogenous motor output. The interaction of social behavior and locomotor control in the central nervous system of weakly electric fishes interests him. He examines the cellular and circuit-level mechanisms by which fish cooperate through the control of their electric field and their locations relative to others of the same species nearby.
Fortune received a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences from the University of Chicago (UC) and a doctorate from the UC Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy.
Last update: January 16, 2013
Topics: animal behavior, bio-cellular sensing