The brain has a body: adaptive behavior emerges from interactions of nervous system, body and environment

Trends Neurosci. 1997 Dec;20(12):553-7. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(97)01149-1.


Studies of mechanisms of adaptive behavior generally focus on neurons and circuits. But adaptive behavior also depends on interactions among the nervous system, body and environment: sensory preprocessing and motor post-processing filter inputs to and outputs from the nervous system; co-evolution and co-development of nervous system and periphery create matching and complementarity between them; body structure creates constraints and opportunities for neural control; and continuous feedback between nervous system, body and environment are essential for normal behavior. This broader view of adaptive behavior has been a major underpinning of ecological psychology and has influenced behavior-based robotics. Computational neuroethology, which jointly models neural control and periphery of animals, is a promising methodology for understanding adaptive behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*