Animals weigh the risks of predation, time, and energy while moving through unpredictable and dynamic substrates. Biomechanics studies locomotion as it varies with the environment. Spatial cognition is used to learn, adapt, and execute routes in complex environments. Both fields study animal movement, yet the two fields have not been integrated. Biomechanical studies focus on the physics of movement, but do not address the impact of learning on biomechanical solutions, such as choosing a simpler or more complex route. Similarly, spatial cognition does not consider the biomechanical costs of route optimization. To understand these decisions, we need to integrate these concepts into the term we coined, cognitive biomechanics.

This include strategies of embodied cognition:  how dogs adjust their movements to changing weather as they track a human trail; how humans track locations using odor and why the scale of space can dictate the complexity of a spatial orientation strategy.

Key Papers

Hunt NH, Jinn J, Jacobs LF, Full RJ (2021) Acrobatic squirrels learn to leap and land on tree branches without falling. Science 373:697–700.   PDF

Jinn J, Connor EG, Jacobs LF (2020) How ambient environment influences olfactory orientation in search and rescue dogs. Chem Senses 45:625–634.  PDF

Jacobs LF, Arter J, Cook A, Sulloway FJ (2015) Olfactory orientation and navigation in humans. PLoS ONE 10:e0129387.   PDF

Jacobs LF, Menzel R (2014) Navigation outside of the box: what the lab can learn from the field and what the field can learn from the lab. Movement Ecology 2:1–22. PDF

Our leap of insight

When Lucia was invited to become an artist-in-residence at the Stochastic Labs, she invited graduate students Judy Jinn, Nate Hunt, Tom Libby*, Jen Arter* and undergraduate Aaron Texeira to join her in a 6 week residency, where we invented our ‘magnetic climbing wall’. (Left to Right: Nate, Judy, Lucia, Aaron; *not pictured).

Our canine collaborator

under construction