Stochastic optimal control and estimation methods adapted to the noise characteristics of the sensorimotor system

Neural Comput. 2005 May;17(5):1084-108. doi: 10.1162/0899766053491887.


Optimality principles of biological movement are conceptually appealing and straightforward to formulate. Testing them empirically, however, requires the solution to stochastic optimal control and estimation problems for reasonably realistic models of the motor task and the sensorimotor periphery. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of incorporating biologically plausible noise into such models. Here we extend the linear-quadratic-gaussian framework--currently the only framework where such problems can be solved efficiently--to include control-dependent, state-dependent, and internal noise. Under this extended noise model, we derive a coordinate-descent algorithm guaranteed to converge to a feedback control law and a nonadaptive linear estimator optimal with respect to each other. Numerical simulations indicate that convergence is exponential, local minima do not exist, and the restriction to nonadaptive linear estimators has negligible effects in the control problems of interest. The application of the algorithm is illustrated in the context of reaching movements. A Matlab implementation is available at

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiology
  • Artifacts
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Neurological
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Normal Distribution
  • Stochastic Processes