Department of Engineering / Profiles / Dr David Franklin

Department of Engineering

Dr David Franklin


David Franklin

Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow

Academic Division: Information Engineering

Research group: Computational and Biological Learning

Telephone: +44 1223 7 48516


Personal website


Research interests

Dr. Franklin’s research examines how humans learn models of the external world and use these to adapt our movements to new experiences. His work uses robotic systems to simulate novel dynamics and virtual objects in order to investigate the underlying mechanisms by which the brain learns new tasks. A major focus of this research is how we adapt to instability in the environment through co-activation of our muscles to control the endpoint stiffness of our limbs. He has proposed an algorithm by which the brain may solve the problem of adaptation to novel dynamics such that a solution is found, robust to both noise and instability, which simultaneously minimizes the metabolic cost.

The methods by which humans solve the problems in motor control can then be utilized by robots in the future to produce similar adaptation and robustness to an externally changing world. The same knowledge can also be used for the design of prosthetic hands and limbs to try to restore motor function that has been lost. Similarly, once we understand the mechanisms underlying learning and adaptation in healthy individuals, we may be able to develop novel training techniques that can be used for rehabilitation, for example after stroke injury.

Dr. Franklin’s recent focus has been on characterizing the adaptive control of feedback systems in human motor control. Through a combination of visual and haptic perturbations he studies how the nervous system learns to control and adapt these systems to the environment. This work has demonstrated that the feedback systems are highly adaptive and rapidly update to changes in the task goals, implicating a mechanism similar to model-predictive control within the sensorimotor control system.

Research projects

  • Wellcome Trust: Mechanisms of adaptive motor control (2010-2015)
  • BBSRC: Integrating perception and action (with Dr. Joern Diedrichsen, University College London) (2012-2014)