Information about the Octopus Project.


Octopus attempting to open lidIn the Octopus Project, we focus on the executive functions of the animal’s brain and how it interacts with the extensive peripheral nervous system of the arms. Our perspective evolves from extensive studies of decisions in the brain and behavior of another predatory mollusk (see information about Cyberslug here).

While originally created to study the development of octopus larvae, we are now one of seven laboratories, both biologists and engineers, who interact and collaborate on the problems of soft-bodied robotics. We focus on understanding the brain and behavior of an octopus, and we focus on intelligent motor control of how the animal controls a soft, flexible body. Among our goals is to create computational models that simulate the distributed intelligence within the octopus. A $7.5 million Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) award from the Office of Naval Research is for building a Cyberoctopus, a software equivalent to the marine animal that will help the team understand and leverage its ability to conduct distributed inference and decision-making, its embodied control and intelligence, and its ability to learn new behavior quickly.

Our Principal Investigator is Rhanor Gillette.

Check out the photo gallery below of some previous octopuses and the tabs below to check out some videos.

Useful References

  1. SFN posters: October 19, 2019, 1:00 PM.
  2. 068.10. The evolution of esthetics in goal-directed foraging. *E. D. GRIBKOVA, R. GILLETTE.
  3. 067.19. Identification of neurotransmitters that affect ciliolocomotor crawling in the sea slug Pleurobranchaea californica. *C. LEE, E. ROMANOVA, C. HUANG, J. V. SWEEDLER, R. GILLETTE.
  4. CyberSlug: Brown JW, Caetano-Anollés D, Catanho M, Gribkova E, Ryckman N, Tian K, Voloshin M, Gillette R (2018) Implementing goal-directed foraging decisions of a simpler nervous system in simulation. eNeuro 26 February 2018, 5 (1) ENEURO.0400-17.2018; DOI:

Videos from Current Project
Little Cthulhu Learns to Open a Vial with a Guppy in it.



Videos from Previous Experiments
Octopus Hatchlings Video


Octopus Project Video