Institute for Perception Action and Behaviour
School of Informatics
University Crest

Barbara Webb

Professor of Biorobotics
Institute for Perception, Action and Behaviour
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh
Room: IF 1.40     Phone: +44 (0)131 651 3453 
Address: Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton St, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, U.K.


I joined the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in May 2003. Previously I have lectured at the University of Stirling (1999-2003), the University of Nottingham (1995-1998) and the University of Edinburgh (1993-1995). I received my Ph.D. (in Artificial Intelligence)  from the University of Edinburgh in 1993, and my B.Sc. (in Psychology) from the University of Sydney in 1988.


My main research interest is in perceptual systems for the control of behaviour. The work is largely concerned with building computational and physical models of these mechanisms to explicate and evaluate hypotheses. In particular I focus on insect behaviours, as their smaller nervous systems may be easier to elucidate. Recent work has focussed on some of the more complex capabilities of insects, including multimodal intergration, navigation and learning. I also have an interest in theoretical issues of methodology; in particular the problems of measurement, modeling and simulation.

There is more information about research in my lab here.

Positions available

I am currently looking for a postdoc to join the EPSRC funded project: `Exploiting invisible cues for low-cost outdoor robot navigation', to work on how ultraviolet and polarised light processing in insects can be applied to robotics. In particular this will involve developing a model of ant eye processing, encompassing the ommnatidia layer with anatomically accurate optical resolution, distribution of directions in the polarisation sensitive dorsal rim, wavelength and intensity response characteristics of photoreceptors, etc., and implementing and testing insect-inspired navigation algorithms with this realistic enhanced input, on a range of navigation tasks, to assess how the effectiveness and robustness of the algorithms is dependent on the receptor characteristics and layout.

The post is available from 1st March 2015 and is fixed-term for 30 months, with the possibility of extension. The closing date for applications is 5th January 2015. Further details and application materials here, or contact me at the email address above for more information.


Intelligent Autonomous Robotics
Statistics for Informatics postgraduates

Selected Publications

Webb, B. (2012) Cognition in Insects. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367:2715-2722

Mangan, M., Webb, B. (2012) Spontaneous formation of multiple routes in individual desert ants (Cataglyphis velox). Behavioral Ecology 23 (5), 944-954

Wessnitzer, J., Young, J., Armstrong, D. & Webb, B. (2012) A model of non-elemental olfactory learning in Drosophila. Journal of Computational Neuroscience (Online First)

Young, J., Wessnitzer, J., Armstrong, D.A. & Webb, B. (2011) Elemental and non-elemental olfactory learning in Drosophila. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (Online First)

Russell, C., Wessnitzer, J., Young, J. & Webb, B. (2011) Dietary salt levels affect salt preference and learning in larval Drosophila. PLOS One.(online access)

Payne, M., Hedwig, B. & Webb, B. (2010) Multimodal predictive control in crickets. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 6226:167-177.

Stewart, F., Baker, D. and Webb, B. (2010) A model of visual-olfactory integration for odour localisation in free-flying fruit flies. Journal of Experimental Biology 213:1886-1900.

Webb, B. (2009) Animals versus animats: or why not model the real iguana? Adaptive Behaviour. 17:269-286 (pdf preprint)

Mangan, M. and Webb, B. (2009) Modelling Place Memory in Crickets. Biological Cybernetics, Volume 101, Pages: 07-323 (pdf preprint)

Webb, B. (2008) Using robots to understand animal behavior. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 38:1-58
DOI: 10.1016/S0065-3454(08)00001-6

Wessnitzer J., Mangan M., and Webb B. (2008) Place memory in crickets. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275:915-921
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1647

Smith, D., Wessnitzer, J. and Webb, B. (2008) A model of associative learningin the mushroom body. Biological Cybernetics, 99:89-103
DOI: 10.1007/s00422-008-0241-1

Rosano, H. and Webb, B. (2007) A dynamic model of thoracic differentiation for the control of turning in the stick insect. Biological Cybernetics, 97:229-246
DOI: 10.1007/s00422-007-0170-4

Webb, B., Wessnitzer, J., Bush, S., Schul, J., Buchli, J. and Ijspeert, A. (2007) Resonant neurons and bushcricket behaviour. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193:285-288.
DOI: 10.1007/s00359-006-0199-1

Chapman, T.P. and Webb, B. (2006) A model of antennal wall-following and escape in the cockroach. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 192:949-969.
DOI: 10.1007/s00359-006-0132-7

Wessnitzer, J. and Webb, B. (2006) Multimodal sensory integration in insects - towards insect brain control architectures. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics 1 63-75

Webb, B. (2006) Validating biorobotic models Journal of Neural Engineering 3 R25-R35 (pdf preprint)

Webb, B. (2006) Transformation, encoding and representation. Current Biology 6 R184-R185. (pdf preprint)

Horchler, A., Reeve, R., Webb, B. and Quinn, R. Robot phonotaxis in the wild: a biologically inspired approach to outdoor sound localization. Advanced Robotics (2004), 18(8):801-816 (pdf)

Webb, B. (2004) Neural mechanisms for prediction: do insects have forward models? Trends in Neurosciences 27:278-282 (pdf preprint)

Webb, B. (2002) Robots in invertebrate neuroscience Nature 417:359-363 (pdf preprint)

Webb, B. (2001) Can robots make good models of biological behaviour? Target article for Behavioural and Brain Sciences 24 (6) 1033-1050 (html pre-print)

Webb, B (2000) What does robotics offer animal behaviour? Animal Behaviour, 60, 545-558 (pdf)


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