Monday, December 10, 2012

[Comp-neuro] Frontiers in Cognitive Science special issue + Workshop: Intrinsic motivations and open-ended development

Dear colleagues,

In collaboration with Frontiers in Cognitive Science, we are currently organizing a special issue (there called ''Research Topic'') with the title "Intrinsic motivations and open-ended development in animals, humans, and robots" (

*** The special issue is organised in coordination with the ''International Workshop on Intrinsic motivations and Open-Ended Development in Animals, Humans, and Robots" (Rome, 6-8 June 2013; for details: Please use the abstract (see submission instructions below), or an email, to manifest your interest to participate in the workshop.

*** The proposed structure of the Research Topic is provided below, together with links to the instructions to submit an abstract (deadline: 21 January 2013) and a final paper (deadline: 21 May 2013).

*** Topic Editors: Gianluca Baldassarre, Andrew Barto, Marco Mirolli, Peter Redgrave, Richard Ryan, Tom Stafford

*** Description: The aim of this Research Topic for Frontiers in Cognitive Science is to present state-of-the-art research, whether theoretical,  empirical, or computational investigations, on open-ended development driven by intrinsic motivations. The topic will address questions such as: How do motivations drive learning? How are complex skills built up from a foundation of simpler competencies? What are the neural and computational bases for intrinsically motivated learning? What is the  contribution of intrinsic motivations to the wider cognition?

Autonomous development and lifelong open-ended learning are hallmarks of intelligence. Higher mammals, and especially humans, engage in activities that do not appear to directly serve the goals of survival,  reproduction, or material advantage. Rather, a large part of their activity is intrinsically motivated - behavior driven by curiosity, play, interest in novel stimuli and surprising events, autonomous goal-setting, and the pleasure of acquiring new competencies. This allows the cumulative acquisition of knowledge and skills that can later be used to accomplish fitness-enhancing goals. Intrinsic motivations continue during adulthood, and in humans artistic creativity, scientific discovery, and subjective well-being owe much to them.

The study of intrinsically motivated behavior has a long history in psychological and ethological research, which is now being reinvigorated by perspectives from neuroscience, artificial intelligence and computer science. For example, recent neuroscientific research is discovering how  neuromodulators like dopamine and noradrenaline relate not only to extrinsic rewards but also to novel and surprising events, how brain areas such as the superior colliculus and the hippocampus are involved in the perception and processing of events, novel stimuli, and novel associations of stimuli, and how violations of predictions and expectations influence learning and motivation.

Computational approaches are characterizing the space of possible reinforcement learning algorithms and their augmentation by intrinsic reinforcements of different kinds. Research in robotics and machine learning is yielding systems with increasing autonomy and capacity for self-improvement: artificial systems with motivations that are similar to those of real organisms and support prolonged autonomous learning. Computational research on intrinsic motivation is being complemented by, and closely interacting with, research that aims to build hierarchical architectures capable of acquiring, storing, and exploiting the knowledge and skills acquired through intrinsically motivated learning.

Now is an important moment in the study of intrinsically motivated open-ended development, requiring contributions and integration across a large number of fields within the cognitive sciences. This Research Topic aims to contribute to this effort by welcoming papers carried out with ethological, psychological, neuroscientific and computational approaches, as well as research that cuts across disciplines and approaches. Original research advancing specific aspects of the state-of-the art and review/theoretical papers aiming to systematize the field are both suitable for this Topic.

*** Abstract Submission Deadline: 21 January 2013
*** Article Submission Deadline: 21 May 2013

*** Frontiers Research Topics are designed to be an organized, encyclopedic coverage of a particular research area, and a forum for discussion and debate. Contributions can be of different article types (Original Research, Methods, Hypothesis & Theory, and others). Several outstanding researchers are expected to contribute to the call and participate in the Workshop.

Our Research Topic has a dedicated homepage on the Frontiers website, where contributing articles are accumulated and discussions can be easily held. Once all articles are published, the topic will be  compiled into an e-book, which can be sent to foundations that fund your research, to journalists and press agencies, and to any number of other organizations. As the ultimate reference source from leading scientists, Frontiers Research Topic articles become highly cited.

Frontiers is a Swiss-based, open access publisher. As such an article accepted for publication incurs a publishing fee, which varies depending on the article type. The publishing fee for accepted articles is below average compared to most other open access journals - and lower than subscription-based journals that apply page and color figure charges. Moreover, for Research Topic articles, the publishing fee is discounted quite steeply thanks to the support of the Frontiers Research Foundation. Details on Frontiers' fees can be found at:

When published, your article will be freely available to visitors to the Frontiers site, and will be indexed in PubMed and other academic archives. As an author in Frontiers, you will retain the copyright to your own paper and all figures.

*** For more information about this Topic and Frontiers in Cognitive Science, please visit:

*** For information on the abstract submission procedure, click on the ''Info for Authors'' tab within this web-page:

*** To submit an abstract and, if this is accepted, the related article use the following link:
(Here choose: ''Submit an abstract/article'' and ''Start submission''; then Domain:Science, Field:Psychology, Journal-section:Cognitive-Science ...then follow instructions...).

Best regards,
Gianluca Baldassarre, Andrew Barto, Marco Mirolli, Peter Redgrave, Richard Ryan, Tom Stafford
Guest Associate Editors, Frontiers in Cognitive Science (

Gianluca Baldassarre, Ph.D.,
Laboratory of Computational Embodied Neuroscience,
Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione,
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (LOCEN-ISTC-CNR),
Via San Martino della Battaglia 44, I-00185 Roma, Italy
Learn from the past, live in(tensely) the present, dream for the future

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